Private sector takes lead role in Coronavirus roll back
Nigeria’s private sector is taking a leading and commendable role in the country’s fight to roll back the spread of the coronavirus pandemic which has affected much of the globe.
Access Bank Plc, Nigeria’s biggest lender by assets, is teaming up with Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote to provide treatment and isolation centres across the country as it braces for the impact of the pandemic.
Nigeria has recorded 65 cases of the Covid-19 virus, including one death.
Some experts have expressed fears that the spread could become much larger than this and similar to the surge in numbers, witnessed in Italy or the United States, if community infections aren’t curtailed due to poor health facilities.
To date less than 500 people have been tested and the government is tracing 4,370 persons that have made some contact with confirmed virus cases, the ministry of health said last week.
This is why the private sector intervention is much welcome.
The facilities, which will be located across the country with a total of 1,000 beds, will be ready within weeks, Access Bank said last Thursday.
They will have Chinese experts and also serve as testing, isolation, treatment and training centres.
United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) for its part announced a donation of over N5 billion ($ 14 million), through the UBA Foundation, to catalyse a comprehensive pan-African response to the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic.
The donation will provide significant and much needed support to Nigeria and 19 other African countries, by supplying relief materials, critical care facilities, and financial support to Governments. The UBA support programme will be allocated as follows: N1 billion ($2.8 million) to Lagos State Government in Nigeria, N500 million ($1.4 million) to Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and N1 billion ($2.8 million) to the remaining 35 states in Nigeria, N1.5 billion ($4.2 million) to UBA’s presence countries in Africa, and N1 billion ($2.8 million) for Medical Centres with equipment and supplies.
UBA will fund a medical centre immediately in Lagos, Nigeria, with beds for isolation and ICU facilities, managed and operated in partnership with Heirs Holdings’ healthcare subsidiary, Avon Medical Hospital.
In addition, UBA is providing a free telemedicine platform, that is physician-led, to provide direct access to medical advice to citizens, in compliance with social distancing requirements.
UBA Group Chairman Tony O. Elumelu, stated: “This is a time when we must all play our part. This global pandemic must bring citizens, governments and business leaders together – and quickly. As we see a rapidly increasing number of cases of the coronavirus in Nigeria and Africa, the private sector has to work hand in hand with various Governments, in stemming the spread of the global pandemic.”
Another iconic private sector firm, Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank), Nigeria’s leading lender, is setting up a 100-bed Intensive Care Centre in Lagos for Nigerians that may be infected by the coronavirus.
Segun Agbaje, Chief executive Officer, GTBank in a statement said that the center will be fully equipped with all the necessary gadgets, including respirators and personnel to treat and care for those that may be affected.
The Centre will be fully set up by the end of this week, Agbaje said.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and oil companies in the country have also stepped up to be counted in the fight against COVID-19 with a support of N11bilion ($30 million) which would be used to provide medical consumables, logistics and in-patient support system and medical infrastructure.
In a joint statement by the NNPC, Oil Producers Trade Section (OPTS) and Independent Petroleum Producers Group (IPPG), they said the effort was in recognition of the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Nigerian population and economy.
According to the group, the support was necessary to address the demand for medical services, “We are immediately providing medical consumables covering testing kits, medical protective suits and ambulances to the highly impacted areas across the Federation. This will be followed in the next few days with the deployment of ventilators, beds and temporary intensive care facilities across the geopolitical zones in the federation,” the statement said.
The OPTS is a sub group within the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, an umbrella group of companies that have come together to promote their common interests. The group membership includes both local and foreign-owned companies registered in Nigeria who hold an oil prospecting license or an oil mining license.
IPPG is an association of indigenous exploration and production companies with a current membership of 25 companies. Companies under IPPG include Oando, Seplat, Pillar Oil, Yinka Folawiyo, Shoreline Natural Resources, Waltersmith Petroleum and Niger Delta Petroleum Resources among others.
Femi Otedola, one of Nigerian renowned businessman, philanthropist, and former chairman of Forte Oil Plc has also pledged to contribute N1bn towards the eradication of COVID-19 in Nigeria, while founder of BUA Group, Abdul-Samad Rabiu, has announced a donation of N1 billion in cash through the BUA Foundation, plus an additional donation of equipment and medical supplies including testing kits and medical protective gear to 9 states in Nigeria.
Union Bank has also partnered with 54gene, a U.S.-based genetic research company, using a $500,000 funding facility to increase Covid-19 testing capacity in Nigeria to 1,000 daily. 54gene launched the testing support fund with $150,000 to secure instruments and protective equipment needed to keep health-care workers safe. The company aims to increase rate of testing in Nigeria to 5,000 tests daily working with other partners.
The poor state of health care facilities in Nigeria mean that these donations are vital in the fight to stop the spread of the disease. It is truly a great moment in time for Nigeria’s private sector and to be commended by all.