BEING THE TEXT OF A WORLD PRESS CONFERENCE ON THE STATE OF THE SOUTH EAST ZONE IN RESPONSE TO THE ONGOING COVID-19 PANDEMIC RAVAGING THE COUNTRY ORGANISED BY THE SOUTH EAST REVIVAL GROUP HELD ON Thursday, May 07, 2020 IN ABUJA
Distinguished men of the press
Ladies and gentlemen
Since February 27, 2020 when the first Coronavirus case was identified in Nigeria, the health and socio-economic lives of Nigerians have not been the same till date.
The situation is the same globally, with the world recording no fewer than 3,834,140 confirmed cases coronavirus as at Wednesday, May 6, 2020 and 265,240 deaths. Right now, active cases is over 2,262,367 globally.
From the above, it is evident that the South East governors has managed the COVID-19 outbreak well in the region and this accounts for the low number of cases.
Also, the south eastern states have individually set up active anti-Coronavirus committees or Task Force, saddled with the responsibility of awareness creation and information management under the supervision of health authorities in the state and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
We note with special emphases the proactive steps taken by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State whose state is the main entrance point into the South East region from the north. He has in no small measure demonstrated uncommon leadership by working day and night as a major gatekeeper for the Eastern Zone in the war against the spread of Coronavirus pandemic.
Also, the Nsukka Local Government Chairman, High Chief Patrick Omeje has shown leadership and has mobilised the people and has intercepted several midnight interstate travelers and a corpse brought into the local government from Kano at midnight. It is worthy of note that Nsukka is bordered by Kogi and Benue states in the north and a major interstate highway.
For various proactive steps and palliatives so far provided to the citizens resident in the south east geopolitical zone, we highly commend our state governors for providing the right leadership that made the current low rate of transmission possible.
Central Coordinating Structure/Palliative Fund
In view of the far-reaching impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on both the health and economic lives of the people, we therefore urge the state governors, through the South East Governors Forum, to set up a central coordinating centre for the region.
The centre should be able to, among other things, coordinate information dissemination and measures aimed at cushioning the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the people and businesses in the South during and after the disease with view to reduce the negative impact of Coronavirus spread prevention measures like the ongoing lockdown in the country.
Whether the lockdown is partial or total at any time, it hurts business. And the centre, when established, should be able to articulate post-COVID-19 measures the south east could adopt to reduce the effects on small and medium scale businesses, work out modalities for possible support to small businesses in the region for a period not less than five years to speed up economic growth in post-coronavirus South East.
We also recommend strongly that the five governors of the south east establish a COVID-19 intervention fund by whatever name it may be called to also be coordinated by the centre.
The key essence of the centre is to have a central purse where individual sons and daughters of the region can donate cash, food and materials that could serve as palliative to the less privileged members of the society.
Our governors must know that it has become most expedient now that the federal government has tactically excluded the South East from any meaningful palliatives disbursement.
The reality is that the South East region is an abandoned geographical area by the federal government, with little or no attention paid to the people of the zone.
Our hospitals lack the capacity to handle high number of infections and through the regional pool funds, the South East can begin to equip hospitals in the zone ahead of any eventuality.
When established, we urge all sons and daughters of the South East extraction with means, both at home and abroad, to donate generously to the fund to assist governments in the zone to overcome the Coronavirus pandemic.
Need For Interstate Border Closure in Compliance to Federal Government Directive
We strongly advise the five governors of the South East immediately safeguard the region by closing all the interstate borders in total compliance to the curfew imposed by the Federal Government.
If there was need for such drastic measure, it is now critical in view of the surge in new cases of Coronavirus in the northern part of the country and to curtail trans-border transmission of the dreaded virus to keep the rate of infection in the south east low.
A total lockdown of eastern borders is necessary to avoid needless deaths in the region because we are at war with a global pandemic that has continued to claimed lives in their thousands in countries with sophisticated health system and facilities.
As at today, there have been several reports of interstate travelling from the North. A trailer load of Almajiris was intercepted in Abia State last week while another trailer and some buses loaded with the same Almajiris were also intercepted by vigilante community leaders at Opi in Nsukka two days ago.
They pass through Kogi and Benue state undetected by security agents because some security agencies in the region, like in many highways in Nigeria, take bribes to allow these buses and trailers to pass contrary to federal government directive.
It is yet to be determined why these Almajiris are trouping into South East but we suspect that it is either they are fleeing the north because of the increasing cases or they are being deliberately sent to the south east to infect the people of the region.
Recall that most of the Almajiris deported to Kano, Kaduna, Gombe, Bauchi and other states have tested positive for COVID-19. The continuous influx of South East by Almajiris from the north is not healthy for the country if we want to end this pandemic.
The best prevention of the spread of COVID-19 is quarantine. Every resident should remain in the state where they are. That is the best way to win this war.
Our leaders in the South East have done well but more still needs to be done until we win the It’s cheering to receive the news that Enugu State Government has successfully managed the cases in the state and have discharged all patients.
Prevention they say, is better than cure. In view of the present realities, one of the most needful preventive measures at this moment is a total closure of all eastern states borders with other states, both north and south, and west.
We therefore call on the Federal Government of Nigeria to deploy all available security agencies to state borders to enforce the curfew imposed by President Muhammadu Buhari. Deployment of security agencies to the eastern borders should be immediately ordered to halt interstate movement, particularly at night.
We also call on all south east governors to immediately empower all their local security groups, including the Vigilantes, the Forest Guards, the Neighbourhood Watch, and all others to immediately compliment the efforts of regular security agencies to man the south east borders day and night to end cross-border movements.
Chief Willy Ezugwu
South East Revival Group (SERG)
0805 250 6666