FIGHTING COVID-19: THE PRIVATE SECTOR APPROACH
The outbreak of Covid19 in November last year has caused unimaginable damage to life, shut down businesses and crumbled the economies of the world. There have been some proactive measures by various governments and health institutions like the World Health Organization to come up with a cure for the disease but to no avail.
However, there have been reasonable success in the treatment with some drugs that have seen many infected persons recovered. Nonetheless, preventive measures taken by individuals against exposure to this dreaded virus are the surest ways of staying safe. These measures include; keeping social distance, regular washing of hands in a running water, no shaking of hands, applying hand sanitizer and use of nose masks.
The impact of the pandemic has been so heavy on governments and the private sector. In Nigeria, for instance, many public and private sector organizations have cut budget, slashed wages and retrenched staff. Nigerian government has been so overwhelmed, especially at the first quarter of the year, such that it called on private organizations and high net worth individuals to lend a helping hand in the general efforts to contain the spread of the virus. Of course the cry was responded to almost immediately by public spirited organizations like oil companies, banks, among others, by donating money, test kits, personal protective equipment (PPEs) and other supports especially to the health sector personnel who are in the forefront of the fight against the pandemic at the federal level.
For the States, not much has been heard of such gestures, except very few corporate persons who have supported their state governments in the war to curtail the coronavirus spread and save lives of the citizens.
In Akwa Ibom State, that the Udom Emmanuel administration has been pressed hard by the pandemic is not an overstatement. But the governor who survived recession at his first term, equally rose to the moment. For the administration which aimed at building more infrastructure and bolstering Investments, especially in agriculture for food sufficiency and wealth creation for its citizens, as a major part of its completion agenda, the coronavirus pandemic became a serious threat.
What, in essence, has helped the administration hold its head high, is the governor’s administrative savvy and proactive approaches to Issues, such that even when the deadly wind of the pandemic blew hard, particularly in the months of March and April 2020 and everyone, especially cynical critics, thought the government would capitulate, it rose to the task: today Akwa Ibom State has a pride of place as one of the States well equipped to not only manage the outbreak of the virus, but treat infected persons successfully. Thanks to Governor Udom Emmanuel’s foresight in building and equipping first class health facilities to conduct tests, manage and treat infected persons. Buoyed by the government inspiring response against the virus spread, some corporate organizations in the state lately have identified with the governor’s efforts by donating essential items in the fight.
One of such public spirited organizations which must be acknowledged and commended is the Royalty Group, a chain of hospitality and tourism organization headquartered in Eket. In spite of the fact that hospitality organizations have been heavily affected by the guidelines on Covid19, which requires, among others, the shutting down of hotels and other entertainment centres, Royalty Group was spotted recently when it joined the fight against Covid19 through donation of kits and equipment to the Akwa Ibom State government to assist medical personnel and hospitals in the combat against the pandemic. It was such a captivating moment as the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and the State’s Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong received the donation and poured encomiums on the Royalty group’s exemplary gesture.
Receiving the items from the group’s management team led by the CEO, Pastor Ebong Eno, Dr. Ekuwem who was flanked by the State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong, said the organization has shown exemplary leadership for recognizing the important of supporting government in the fight against the pandemic. He described Royalty Group as efficient and effective corporate citizen, particularly in her management approach which has enabled the organization spread her tentacles across the State, including making her presence felt in the aviation sector through her products.
Donating the items, Eno eulogized Akwa Ibom State Government for taking proactive steps in containing the virus, especially with testing now being conducted at the newly inaugurated world-class isolation centre, recently certified by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). He said the group was delighted at the quality of facilities the State Government has put in place for quick response in the fight against the pandemic, observing that government’s intervention has boosted the confidence of the citizens.
Ebong Eno said: “You are doing a great work for the state. Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have followed every trend; your response against the pandemic has been remarkable. It gives us confidence as the citizens of the state that we are safe and that the Government is doing all it takes to take care of all of us. As a corporate citizen, we felt we should not just be receiving from government, we should find a way of supporting the government in the fight against COVID19.”
The Health Commissioner, Dr. Ukpong also appreciated the support of the group in fight against the pandemic, adding that his ministry was working hard to ensure that no Akwa Ibom citizen was lost as a result of the pandemic.
The response of the organization is applaudable, given the backdrop of the now discredited stories in some sections of online media that Royalty Group, Eket, was infected by Covid19. However, the rumour was later found to be untrue, as government health team and NCDC could not find any trace of the infection in any of the group’s facilities.
According to the CEO, the stories were all made up and totally unfounded. Dispelling the rumour, Ebong Eno exposed the possible goal of peddlers of the rumour: “This was a rumour which started with the intention of damaging the reputation of our organization and the persons connected to it. The author of the rumour wanted to gain cheap attention, by using a household name to achieve that. Besides it was a rumour started by those who were bored and had no tangible thing to do with their time, so energy had to be dissipated one way or the other; no thanks to the pandemic.”
Assuring the public of global standard in hospitality service the group is known for in 23 years of unbreakable records of excellent service, the CEO added: “Having done business over the years with multinational oil and gas companies who have supported our operations through thorough health and safety standards, we cannot drop our standard at any time. Our operations are regularly audited and certified by international standard organizations like NAFDAC, SON, ISO, among other health and safety regulatory agencies in Nigeria.”
COVID19 is a fight we all have to be involved in, it is not something anyone should wish for.
The news that made its rounds on the social media was false and didn’t have any substantial fact.”
On why AKSG visited and fumigated the premises, he explained: “AKSG decided to generally fumigate strategic places of public interest in the State. In Eket, several public places were fumigated. We were one of the places that were fumigated as preventive measure; just as other facilities in the state.
The NCDC went round for awareness campaign which they have the right to do so at any time. But rumour mongers seized the occasion to advance their plot but it failed.”
He further stated that none of the group’s facilities was shut down by AKSG because of any COVID19 case. It was also rumoured that about 25 staff members were infected and picked up but Ebong Eno insisted it never happened and that if anyone was to be arrested, it should have been himself.
On his assessment of the Akwa Ibom State government effort to contain the pandemic, Ebong Eno scored high Governor Udom Emmanuel’s programme and policies on the pandemic, asserting: “You cannot discredit what you can see visibly on the ground.”
According to him, Governor Udom Emmanuel has given much attention to the fight against COVID19, outstanding among other successes is the recent commissioning of a 300-bed infectious disease treatment centre in Ituk Mbang, Uruan; which comes with a Category 3 Virology and Clinical Laboratory, capable of conducting a wide range of tests for those who have core morbidities and polymerase chain reactions with PCR machines for testing COVID19 and HIV, as well as 20 self-contained rooms for health personnel and other workers.
Ebong listed the acquisition of ambulances, revamping of General Hospitals and other healthcare provisions, as pivotal in winning the fight against COVID19.
His words: “All these provisions clearly score high His Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel, as very committed to the fight against COVID19 and ensuring that Akwa Ibom people are safe and in good health. We commend the Chairman COVID-19 Management Committee, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong and all healthcare professionals for cooperating with the governor to make Akwa Ibom State safe.”
Applauding the Royalty Group example, the Chairman of Akwa Ibom State COVID19 Management Committee, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, urged other private organizations to identify with the vision of the Udom Emmanuel administration’s preparedness to keep Akwa Ibom State safe by supporting the fight against COVID19.
As it stands, Akwa Ibom State has yet to receive any financial aid from the federal government in regards to the ongoing war against the pandemic. The private sector in the state could borrow a leaf from Royalty Group for the well-being of all of us.