Plateau State Governor Simon Bako Lalong continued his engagement with critical stakeholders to brief them on the fight against COVID-19 and the way forward.
He thanked them for their cooperation and support so far and also appealed to them to get more involved in addressing the challenges of the virus.
The Governor also used the opportunity to give them the economic, medical and social social response to the virus. Chairman of the State Economic Advisory Council, Ezekiel Gomos, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health Dr. Azzuwut, and Chairman of the Medical Research Committee Prof. Noel Wannang took turns to give highlights of the virus in their areas.
Below is the full text of the Governor’s speech at the event.
SPEECH BY THE EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR OF PLATEAU STATE, HIS EXCELLENCY, RT. HON. (DR) SIMON BAKO LALONG, KSGG AT THE COVID-19 ENGAGEMENT WITH CRITICAL STAKEHOLDERS HELD AT GOVERNMENT HOUSE, LITTLE RAYFIELD, JOS ON 21ST SEPTEMBER 2020.
- Again I have the honour and pleasure to address you as critical stakeholders on our efforts so far in addressing the corona virus pandemic which has affected our State in very many ways.
- By now, you are very much aware of the impact of the pandemic on the nation in general and our State in particular. You will recall the various steps we took before and after the disease was imported into the State.
- Before the advent of the disease in Plateau State, we took difficult decisions to ensure that we guard against the pandemic. We closed all schools; banned public gatherings, cultural festivals and anniversaries; closed markets; and restricted movement along our borders.
- Having constituted the Plateau State Task Force on Covid-19 which is personally chaired by me, we established sub-committees that carried out surveillance, medical assessments, enforcement, as well as embarked massive pubic enlightenment.
- In addition to establishing isolation and quarantine centres, we worked on preparing treatment facilities within the State. This led me to visit the Plateau Specialist Hospital, Jos University Teaching Hospital and the Bingham University Teaching Hospital where I ordered the purchase ventilators, personal protective equipment and medications.
- Perhaps the most difficult decision we had to undertake was declaring partial and total lockdowns on the entire State. This brought business activities to a halt and led to restrictions on the freedoms of our people in such a manner that has not been witnessed before. However, we could not abdicate our responsibility in the face of such painful decisions because of our oath to protect our people at all costs.
- In the course of consultations, we enjoyed tremendous support and cooperation from our people particularly critical stakeholders like you which made things a bit easier. I want to again thank you and the entire people of Plateau for the support you have continued to render to Government.
- Such action demonstrates the true Plateau spirit of THINK AND ACT PLATEAU which I have constantly emphasized. At challenging times such as this, we need to put our political, religious and ethnic differences aside to work for the good of our people. Let us continue to keep this spirit alive.
- While this was going on, I leveraged on my engagements with the Federal Government as Member of the Nigerian Governors Forum and Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum to facilitate the establishment of three testing centres in Plateau State.
- Today, we have testing centres at the NVRI Vom, Plateau Specialists Hospital and the Jos University Teaching Hospital. In addition, we have ordered for Mobile Testing Vans which have capacity to diagnose over 30 health conditions including Covid-19, HIV, Ebola, Hepatitis among others.
- We have received commendation from the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 for our community testing strategy as well as our sensitization and mobilization strides. Plateau State is now rated third best in the country in terms of testing which has given us a fair picture of the pandemic in our State.
- I am sure many of you are worried by the fact that Plateau State in recent times has become the epicentre for Covid-19 cases in the country based on data released by the NCDC. This is not surprising considering our testing capacity compared to many States who rarely feature on such chart, because they are nowhere near us in terms of testing.
- Apart from free testing that we carry out, we have also been consistent in treating those infected with the disease free of charge. The Commissioner of Health who is the Chairman of the Sub-Committee on health will give further details on the statistics of the pandemic and how we are responding.
- Suffice to say, the biggest challenge remains the lack of compliance to guidelines and protocols, denials and resistance to contact tracing and testing by some individuals. That is why we need the support and cooperation of critical stakeholders like you to overcome these challenges.
- Your presence here today is therefore very crucial as we work together to take measures that will lead to greater sensitization and enforcement within your spheres of influence. We need to curtail further spread of the disease by engaging our people to take personal responsibility for their health and the health of others.
- Many people are not using facemasks, nor washing their hands or maintaining social distancing. Indeed others carry on as if there is no Covid-19, despite the fact that we have recorded deaths that are associated with the disease. We need to engage our people more and let them know that this pandemic may stay with us for a longer time.
- In terms of financial commitment, the State Government has so far committed about N366.5 million naira to the fight against Covid-19. Additionally, we launched the Plateau State Covid-19 Endowment Fund which saw good spirited individuals and corporate organisations making donations.
- We are grateful to kind hearted people including many of you that contributed about N123. 3 million naira as well as other food and medical items valued at about N155 million naira. We similarly appreciate the World Health Organisation that recently donated N100 million to the State Government which has greatly helped us to treat those infected by the virus.
- Such donations also enhanced our capacity to distribute palliatives to the weak and vulnerable to cushion the impact of the pandemic. The distributions have been handled in the most transparent manner under the supervision of His Excellency, the Deputy Governor, Prof. Sonni Tyoden.
- The Government also received donations by the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) comprising of Maize Flour, Pasta, Noodles, Sugar, Salt, and Semolina worth about N850 million naira for distribution to 39,993 households across the 17 local Governments. We are still expecting rice consignment from the CACOVID donation which will be distributed to the beneficiaries.
- In order to reopen schools, we have set up a Committee headed by the Secretary to the Government of the State, Prof. Danladi Atu, with sub-committees on Readiness and Compliance headed by the Commissioner for Secondary Education and Chairman, SUBEB respectively.
- We have also trained teachers and Principals, dis-infected schools, and established task teams towards ensuring that all laid down protocols are observed. Once we finish with exit classes, we shall gradually cascade to other classes within secondary and primary levels.
- When the Presidential Task Force team inspected compliance to Covid-19 protocols during the just concluded WAEC examinations, Plateau State was rated first in the North Central Region. We hope to build on such record until we reopen tertiary institutions and indeed all our schools by the end of October if all things fall into place.
- As the world continues to search for cure to corona virus, my administration has taken into cognizance of the natural endowment of Plateau State in terms of herbs and medicinal components. This is why I constituted the Plateau Research Committee on Covid-19 to come up with a cure to the pandemic and other related ailments using local remedies. Chairman of the Committee Prof. Noel Wannang will give you an update on the progress of their research.
- Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the global economy is in bad shape because of the corona virus pandemic. Our State is not immune as it has been seriously impacted. Nevertheless, we are taking various measures to ensure we mitigate such impact.
- Among other things, we recently reviewed the approved 2020 budget and also initiated efforts to look inwards for revenue and diversification. The Chairman of the State Economic Advisory Council will also brief you on the measures we are taking so far.
- I am also looking forward to receiving feedback from you on what you think we can do better to salvage our State from the threat of this pandemic. We are facing a difficult challenge that requires us to all work together in the interest of our people.
- As Governor, I want to re-assure you and the entire people of Plateau State of the commitment of my administration to not only work towards overcoming this disease, but also ensure that our State makes progress. I am in constant touch with the Federal Government, the private sector and international partners to ensure that our State receives the attention it deserves.
- Once again, I welcome you to this interaction and urge you to continue to play your part as we work to defeat this pandemic and move our State forward.
- Thank you for listening. God bless Plateau State and our country Nigeria.
Rt. Hon. (Dr) Simon Bako Lalong, KSGG
Executive Governor of Plateau State.
21st September 2020.