By Edwin Uhara

I read the delusional article written by Mr. Charles Onunaiju where he maliciously faltered the decision of the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 to publish the passport numbers of 100 passengers who flouted the mandatory seven day post arrival Covid-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction test.

If the article was written to rebuke foreign returnees who refused to obey Federal Government order, it would have been more welcoming, but the writer shamlessly attacked the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19, its operational modules, it’s finances and suitability of it’s membership composition as well as calling for the head of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha.

Mr. Onunaiju never condemned the action of those persons he is defending which the Leadership Newspaper in it’s Editorial Comment of January 10, 2021 described as “Health terrorists,” for allegedly contributing to the rising cases of Covid-19 pandemic in the country.

Unlike Mr. Onunaiju, the paper in it’s editorial said: ”It is gratifying to note in our opinion that the Federal Government recently slammed a six month travel ban on violators of Covid-19 protocols. The notice explained that 100 defaulters would be restricted for six months for failure to comply with the mandatory post arrival Covid-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction test. We commend the government for this bold action.

We strongly beleieve that the only way of preventing a spread of the pandemic is by adhering to non-pharmaceutical methods which involves wearing of facemasks, physical/social distancing and use of hand sanitizers. Our fragile health system cannot survive another major outbreak of the pandemic.

We also support the move by the government to impose a travel ban on very important persons (VIPs) and government officials flouting Covid-19 protocols. All VIPs and government officials that violates the protocols must be compelled to undergo the conpulsory tests.” The paper said.

In similar vein, The Nation Newspaper in it’s own comment of January 5, 2021 entitled: ”Dangerous Dodgers” also condemned the action of the foreign returnees by saying, ”Test dodging is condemnable because it endagers others. But if the dodgers behave irresponsibly, the authorities should not encourage irresponsible behaviour. Covid-19 is a public health crisis and no one should be allowed to compound the problem through their irresponsibilty.”

However, let me quickly correct some of the wrong assertions made against the PTF by Mr. Onunaiju.

Contrary to his uninformed commentary, the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 was established to coordinate and oversee Nigeria’s muti-sectoral inter-governmental efforts to contain the spread and mitigate the impact of Covid-19 pandemic in the country.

In otherwords, the PTF provides overall policy direction, guidance and continuous supports to the National Emergency Operations Center at the Nigeria Center for Disease Control and other ministries and agencies of government involved in direct response to Covid-19.

Parts of the PTF mandates also include; sensitization and awareness campaigns for the general public on prevention measures. Response commordities for case management, infestion prevention and control, diagnostic laboratories and deployment strategies, providing recomendations for the provision of direct funding and technical support to states and local governments to strengthen their preparedness capacity and mobilize human, material and financial resources from within and outside the country for effective national and state level preparedness, keeping the public abreast of strategic progress with Nigeria’s response and emerging developments regarding preparedness and response among others.

Before the establishment of the PTF on March 9, 2020, the nation only had two Molecular Laboratories with just 500 daily testing capacity. But today, because of the prudential and pragmatic leadership at the PTF, the nation can now boast of more than 100 Molecular Laboratories with over 20, 000 daily testing capacity.

The nation now have Covid-19 treatment centers in all the 36 states of the federation plus the Federal Capital Territory. The PTF have also receieved approval from President Muhammadu Buhari to build Oxygen Plants in all the 36 states and the FCT.

Similarly, the writter also advertised his crass ignorance when he claimed that the PTF is projecting the apocalypse. It is unfortunate that Mr. Onanuiju belongs to the categories of Nigerians rendering disservices to the nation by denying and under-extimating the virulent nature of the pandemic.

Succinctly, what Onunaiju meant by projecting the apocalypse is the use of science and data by the PTF for its risk communication and community engagement with Nigerians.

Concerning the financial activities of the taskforce as well as it’s donors and expenses, Mr. Onunaiju don’t have to wait for full audit report of the PTF account but can go to a designated website to get all information he needed to know about the PTF. The website is: https://statehouse.gov.ng/covid19/

On the claim by the alleged hack-writer that the Nigerian Immigration Service was not notified before advertisements were placed in some dailies, below is what the NIS said concerning the ban.

“In line with the federal government’s directives on temporary travel restrictions on 100 passengers due to non-compliance with the mandatory seven-day post-arrival COVID-19 PCR test by all in-bound travellers, the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Immigration Service, Muhammad Babandede, has directed the relevant formations to ensure immediate compliance with the travel restriction order.

“The 100 defaulting passengers have been restricted for a period of six months, from January 1st 2021 to June 30th 2021. All the affected passengers have been notified and will be prevented from passport re-issuance and travelling outside the country during this period.”

Let me also inform Mr. Onunaiju that the central idea behind the publication is to serve as deterrent to others whose action might increase “health terrorism” in the country.

The last false narrative by the writer which I want to correct is where he claimed that the PFT is not issuing new guidelines about the virus.

Infact, below is an excerpt of the new provisional quarantine protocol for passengers arriving Nigeria introduced by the PTF and came into effect from Monday, January 11, 2021.

“One of the requirements is that traveller is required to perform a COVID-19 PCR test not more than four days (96 hours) before boarding.

PCR tests done more than 96 hours before departure are not valid and persons will not be allowed to board.

All intending passengers, including diplomats and children less than 10 years old, are to register via an online national travel portal (Nigeria International Travel Portal and proceed to fill in the online Health Declaration/Self-Reporting form located on the portal. They should ensure that the information/contact details provided on the form are correct and verifiable.

Passengers must also inform port health officials on the arrival of any change in their health circumstances since completion of the Health Declaration/Self-Reporting Form.

Passengers who falsify their status as diplomats will face prosecution.”

All the things I said in this article are there in the public domain for all Nigerians to read and download.

Therefore, Mr. Onunaiju and the group is allegedly fronting for, should be told that no amount of mudslinging or distortion of facts can discourage the PTF and it’s eminently qualified members from flattening the Covid-19 curve in the Nigeria.

Comrade Edwin Uhara is a UN-trained Negotiator and Member APC Presidential Campaign Council in the last election.

He writes from Abuja

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