Op-ed: Covid-19 and Army Interventions
By Abdul Salam Mahmud
Ever since the life-threatening, if not killer pandemic, called coronavirus came into limelight, the world has not known, seen or even felt peace. It has remained in perpetual bedlam.
Many have been killed in China, Italy, and in short, across the globe. The epidemic, which originated from Wuhan, an ancient Chinese town, has crippled global economy, religious and social interactions, leaving in its wake tales of agony, despair and misery. The world appears lockdown.
Amid the economic turmoil and continuous killings of persons afflicted with the virus, reputable organisations, spirited individuals, responsible governments, international business magnates, and many acclaimed world’s richest billionaires have not relent in donating relief medical materials and basic provisions to countries hit by COVID-19.
Nigerian philanthropists, banks, celebrities, generous politicians and visionary leaders, like their peers in other parts of the world, are helping the government, in their own little way, to contain the scourge.
‘God is Good Motors’, – a popular transport company in the country, recently donated some of their inter-state shuttle buses to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to be used in evacuating persons with coronavirus to hospital for treatment.
How about Aero Contractors who donated some of their planes and pilots for moving medical items around the country for free?
It was also gathered that Sustainable Health Initiative (SHI), a non-government organisation (NGO), has built and donated a five-storey building at Idu, in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), to be used as isolation and testing centres.
While Africa’s richest, Aliko Dangote, coughed out 200 million naira, Pastor Enoch Adeboye donated respirators and ventilators to some hospitals and COVID-19 treatment centres.
Guarantee Trust Bank (GTB) is not left out too. GTB, as the bank is fondly called, also donated a 100-bed Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Lagos State, while Access Bank constructed a 1000-bed ICU in Abuja.
We must also not forget to mention Alhaji Atiku, a former Vice President, and Mrs. Folurunsho Alakija, a prominent African business tycoon, who donated 50 million and 100 million respectively.
Readers, I am sure, all know Jack Ma, the Chinese billionaire who donated medical items worth billions of naira to Nigeria, and other countries.
The above are not the only ones showcasing their humanitarian spirit and philanthropic flair. The Nigerian Army, as usual, has proactively activated necessary measures to curb the spread of coronavirus. It has also designed and have started implementing measures that will checkmate the spread and havoc of the pandemic.
Afraid of endangering the lives of its personnel and their families and the country at large, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai, has proactively ordered the suspension and participation of Army personnel in all forms of foreign courses till further notice.
All officers and men who just returned from overseas courses at prominent military institutions and Ivy League universities have been ordered to self-isolate themselves.
The Army Command and Nigerian Army Officers Wives’ Association’s (NAOWA) hospital which was newly-built and recently inspected by the COAS will surely boost the capacity of NCDC in the fight against COVID-19 as indicated by the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the specialist hospital.
The CMD of the Hospital, Major General Ikechukwu Okeke (rtd), while taking Lt Gen TY Buratai and some Principal Staff Officers of the Army headquarters round to assess facilities at the newly-commissioned hospital in Asokoro recently, said the hospital will liaise with the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to ensure that necessary guidelines in the prevention and care of COVID19 patients are followed.
Like the Army Command and NAOWA hospital, other health facilities/ hospitals of the Nigerian Army are not only in functional state, but are in a staging positions across the country ready to help victims of coronavirus for isolation, management and care. It is worthy of note that virtually all the Army’s medical facilities and hospitals have been given facelift in recent times, with some even been upgraded to world-class status.
Meanwhile, there are feelers that the medical corps of the Army have been directed to be on stand-by 24/7 in case of emergencies, as sooner or later, their services and intervention may be needed owing to the deficit in the number of health personnel and officials in Nigeria.
Besides suspension of periodic briefings and weekly Army Headquarters’ meetings at the Army Headquarters complex, there are signs that commanders at all levels, have been instructed to ensure they emplace adequate and effective measures to halt the spread of the virus in all the units, formations and Barracks across the nation.
As an institution that is fully aware (at least by precedence) that in period of calamity, the citizens usually rush to its barracks across the country, the army has silently been assessing the state of preparedness of other agencies to checkmate, contain or manage Covi19 with the view to fill in observed gaps where necessary.
The above measures and several others are pointers as to the fact that some Nigerian philanthropists, banks, celebrities, responsible politicians, visionary leaders and reputable organizations like the Nigerian Army are in sync with prevailing realities, and will continue to lead in selflessly serving Nigerians, especially at this trying time. May the other corporate organizations, spirited individuals and groups follow the uncommon examples of the Nigerian Army and other well meaning organizations and individuals in Nigeria. May our benevolent Lord continue to be our strength at a time of intermestic pandemic called CoronaVirus. Amen.
Mahmud , Defence Correspondent
with PRNigeria , writes from Abuja