By Celestine Nwakoro
Enugu is the capital old Eastern Region and still capital of the present Southeast region. Virtually everyone from Southeast has a home, relation or link with and in Enugu.
With this, one can confidently say that Enugu is home for all Igbos and Nigerians at large. It remains the biggest city in the Southeast region both in development and size.
When the menace of Covid-19 pandemic hit Nigeria, my greatest worry was how would Enugu be safeguarded. This is because of its prime place in the affairs of the Southeast region and the country at large. It has always been a destination point for the majority Igbos.
A friend of mine was quick to remind me that Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu has not been reopened, having been shut down for resconstruction since last year.
But I replied him that even at that, the coal city state will always witness influx of people by roads and through the Owerri and Asaba airports.
So unless the Enugu State Government put proactive and preventive measures in place and in time, the State is vulnerable to Covid-19 pandemic, just like Lagos that has become the centre of it.
Thus, I kept tab on Enugu State Government’s preventive measures against covid-19 in the state. So far, Enugu state government has demonstrated readiness and commitment to combating the scourge with its series of laudable and commendable proactive measures and pragmatic steps that can only be compared with that of Lagos State Government. If not better than that of Lagos Government, if one considers the fact that Lagos received N10b from Federal Government as support in time.
Even before the two confirmed cases in Enugu, Enugu State Government has apart from approving and releasing N330m to procure neccessary medical logistics needed to augment the available ones to be used in curbing the spread and handle the treatment of victims of the virus, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi approved the provision of Group Life/ Group Personal Accident Assurance Policy for all medical doctors of the Enugu State Teaching Hospital, Parklane Enugu, doctors in the Health Ministry and other health workers.
Other beneficiaries of the insurance cover include fire fighters, staff of Enugu State Emergency Management Agency and all those involved in essential services.
The State Government subsequently approved the use of the ultra-modern Enugu State Medical Diagnostic Centre as additional Covid-19 Isolation and Treatment Centre alongside the newly-built one in Nsukka, ESUT Hospital Parklane Enugu and the Colliery Hospital Enugu that is presently undergoing reconstruction.
Unfortunately and typical of their professional antics, some nurses of the ESUT Hospital Parklane Enugu, chose to protest recently against Enugu State Government, using lack of protective materials as an excuse for their action.
But if one may ask, how can a government that has put all these proactive measures in place even ahead of the two confirmed covid-19 cases in the state fail to provide ordinary protective materials like face masks, hand gloves sanitizers and others for her medical personnel to work?
This is unbelievable and tales by the moonlight.
The disclosure that the nurses’ grievances was because the Enugu State Government approved 100% Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CNMESS) for the doctors at the ESUT Hospital Parklane Enugu to get them suspend their strike in the midst of the threat being posed by covid-19 pandemic globally is not far from the truth. Why such protest in time of this covid-19 pandemic crisis? Is medical practice all about making money or saving lives first?
What happened to Hippocrates oath taken by medical doctors upon graduation from school? This is same medical personnel who are warning and threatening Federal Government against inviting Chinese medical experts to assist in handling the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
The layman arguement that medical personnel should be paid well like politicians is not tenable. This is because everyone cannot be a politician or political office holder.
The right thing is for medical personnel who are tired of practising to call it a quit and join politics or at worst migrate to overseas for greener pastures as once canvassed by the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, who happens to be a medical doctor too.
It is hoped that these ESUTH Nurses who mischievously protested to blackmail the state government, knew that their counterparts in other states were not provided with any Group Life/ Group Personal Accident Assurance Policy, which Enugu State Government has provided for them at this critical period?
Not even Lagos State Government with all the billions of Naira at her disposal did so for their medical personnel. But since the outbreak of the pandemic and increasing confirmed cases in Lagos almost on daily basis, their health personnel have niether protested nor embarked on any strike for anything.
This is because they know the implications and consequences on the pandemic fight and health of the citizens. It was just recently that consortium of Insurance companies in solidarity and support of the Lagos State Government’s effort in the fight against the pandemic arranged N5b insurance cover for the health workers in the state.
Meanwhile, apart from the Isolation and Treatment Centres in Yaba and Onikan Staduim, the Federal Government-owned University of Lagos Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Idi Araba, Mushin has been of immense assistance in the battle against the deadly virus in Lagos.
This is unlike the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) Ituku Ozalla, Enugu that one cannot fathom or understand their readiness and contributions to the treatment and prevention of the scourge and its spread in Enugu.
Why is it that all attentions, talks and issues about the fight against the pandemic in Enugu are centred on Enugu State Government and its health institutions alone? Some may argue that the pandemic is not prevalent in Enugu like Lagos to warrant Federal Government’s intervention, by getting UNTH battle ready to assist the state government. But must Federal Government wait for more cases to be confirmed in Enugu and others states, apart from Lagos before intervening? If that is the case, where is the proactiveness in the fight against the pandemic?
It is quite instructive for one to know that the fight against the global pandemic is money spinning and that the Federal Government corners 52 percent share of the country’s total revenue, leaving states and local governments with 48% to manage with.
Meanwhile the same Federal Government that has not deemed it fit to activate UNTH Enugu for any role in the Covid-19 pandemic fight has through the National Centre For Disease and Control (NCDC) gone to Alex Ekwueme University Teaching Hospital, Abakalki, Ebonyi State and established a virology laboratory for Covid-19 diagnosis, instead of the UNTH Enugu that is at the centre of the Southeast region and more equipped medically and otherwise.
One cannot reason what informed such decision by the Federal Government, but it obvious that whatever informed it is more political than reasonable, conducive and suitable.
Well, there is no cause for alarm. What is of utmost importance now is that there is a virology laboratory in Southeast region for diagnosis of Covid-19 cases.
Not minding, there is need for UNTH to be equipped and activated by the Federal Government to enable it play complementary role to Enugu State Government’s efforts in the battle against the spread of virus and its treatment in the state.
Everything about the proactive measures to contain and control the spread of the disease should not be left completely for the state governments to cater for alongside the local governments. This is because of the greater effects such will have on them in terms of meeting up with their financial obligations.
There is urgent need for the Federal Government to lend financial support to state governments at this critical period of global pandemic crisis. If possible, state governments should be refunded their expenses so far and be given additional financial support to continue with measures to tackle the scourge.
If the sit-at-home or lockdown continues after two weeks without headway, many state and local governments may not meet up with their financial obligations and this might lead to collapse of governance in the country.
Even developed countries with strong and sound economy are facing economic and financial crises over the ravaging global pandemic, let alone developing economy like that of Nigeria with weak footing.
Celestine Nwakoro writes from Opebi, Ikeja Lagos via firstname.lastname@example.org