Chikwe Ihekweazu, the CEO of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has said that Telecommunications companies in Nigeria ignored their pleas for support until the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus.
In an interview with Arise Television on Friday, monitored by our correspondent, Ihekweazu confirmed that the agency has secured help from MTN and Airtel, but noted that these have come right in the middle of the war to combat the pandemic, thereby hampering the organisation’s ability to respond to the crises.
“We approached the TelCos for many years for assistance but none of them came to our aid,” Ihekweazu said while answering questions about why the organisation’s helplines were unable to provide support last week.
Many Nigerians on social media lamented their inability to speak to officials of the agency last week as many were kept waiting for a long time.
As of late Thursday, March 26, Nigeria had recorded a total of 65 Coronavirus cases, with Lagos, the commercial capital of the country, accounting for 44 of the number.
Ihekweazu said the support from the TelCos was ‘better late, than never’ but it took some time to integrate their systems with those of the agency because they were not plug-and-play devices.
Telcos have redundant airtime and other services that can be deplored for public good, but in Nigeria, these Telcos did not rise to the occasion until the crises began to assume frightening proportions.
Nigerians have also been calling for lower data charges and some form of support as millions are asked to stay at home but the Telcos in Nigeria have largely ignored such calls as the quest for profits continues to outweigh public interest even in the midst of a pandemic.