CBN: Taking giant steps to save Nigeria from COVID-19 threat

By Editor on 31/03/2020

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If Nigeria eventually extricates itself from the vice grip of the current monster called COVID-19, the dreaded disease that is sweeping across the world like a deadly tempest, there will certainly be heroes and villains that will either stand tall or be cast down.

Presently, things do not appear so bright, as Nigeria, like most parts of the world have continued to witness a progressive spike in the cases. From the index case recorded by an unknown Italian, said to have entered the country on February 24 and was not noticed until he fell ill three days later on February 27, after visiting Lafarge, a French cement company in Ogun State, the list hit 131 as at the last count on Monday, with new entrants being announced daily in exponential order.   

However, there is still hope in many quarters that the end would come someday and that there would still be people left in the end to count the gains and pains. Whenever that happens, there will certainly be an enviable platform for institutions like the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to stand and take a bow.

Perhaps, alongside the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the agency that is directly fighting the scourge, the most outstanding today remains the apex bank. No other institution of government, seems as forthcoming as the CBN in giving a frontal attack to the menace. The rest, could be found outside government, such as individuals, banks, companies and other stakeholders.

Through its policies and pronouncements, the bank, has proactively acted in such a manner that shows that it is not only seized of the entire situation, but it is willing to lead from the front in tackling the problem from the outset.      

As a first step, a set of six incentives was announced by the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, on March 16, including granting a further moratorium on the bank’s intervention facilities for a one-year period in all principal repayments, with effect from March 2020.

Again, it also did same for any intervention loan currently under moratorium, while announcing the reduction of interest rates on all applicable CBN intervention facilities to five per cent from nine per cent per annum, for one year effective from Match.

Outside those, it also establishing a N50 billion facility through the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) microfinance bank for households as well as Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) that have been hit by the COVID-19.

But that was when the pandemic, was still at its infancy or lowest ebb. The ante upped substantially two days after when Emefiele announced a N1trillion intervention plan to cushion the effect of the dreaded disease on the economy.

The new funding, was specifically for intervention in boosting local manufacturing and import substitution by all critical sectors of the economy. This was in addition to N100 billion in loan in 2020, to support the health authorities to ensure laboratories, researchers and innovators working with global scientists to patent and or produce vaccines and test kits In Nigeria to prepare for any major crises ahead.

After announcing the measures on March 18, the CBN boss, was to again, inform on Saturday, March 21, of a far more ambitious intervention package of N3trillion  (in Naira and foreign exchange), to be granted pharmaceutical firms, to enable them procure raw materials and equipment to boost local drug production in Nigeria.

CBN Governor: Godwin Emefiele release five years plan to reduce ...

Emefiele

The decision, according to him was taken at the Bankers’ Committee meeting with the major intentionn, being to support the pharmaceutical companies “given the fact that the present pandemic was of grave public health concern, coupled with the fact that many drug-manufacturing countries planned or had already banned the export of drugs and medical supplies from their respective countries, thereby leaving Nigeria no choice but to produce the drugs locally.”

A week after, as the scourge has now gained in intensity, the apex bank, on Monday, March 30, rolled out yet, another ambitious programme of flooding the Nigerian landscape with modern health facility centres for not only combating the current scourge, but new threats that might occur in future.   

To fast track what is already in the offing, the bank announced that the first phase of the project, would see to the completion of the centres in the states representing the six geopolitical structure of Nigeria within 10 days.

Isaac Okorafor, spokesman of the bank, who made the announcement in a statement, informed that the first phase would be built in Lagos, Kano, Rivers, Abuja, Enugu and Borno, with the second stage would see them springing up in Katsina, Ogun, Bayelsa, Anambra, Bauchi and Plateau states, in the next three weeks, while the rest of the nation would be getting their own in the coming in the next five weeks.

The full statement, said: “The world is currently battling a global health crisis as COVID-19 spreads rapidly through many countries. Currently, cases of the virus have been reported among individuals across Nigeria and there is a high risk of the virus spreading through much of the population, if we do not come together to fight this battle. Necessitating, the introduction of the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID).

“We are pleased to announce that work has begun in earnest to provide and equip medical facilities in the six geopolitical zones. This will involve the creation of testing, isolation and treatment centers, and include the provision of Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and molecular testing labs.

“We have started with Lagos (1,000 beds), Kano (500 beds), Rivers (210 beds) Abuja (200 beds), Enugu (200 beds) and Borno (200 beds) and expect to be operational within 10 days. The next phase will see locations set up in Katsina, Ogun, Bayelsa, Anambra, Bauchi and Plateau to be ready within three weeks. The remaining states of the Federation will be set up in the last phase within the next five weeks.

“Based on the population of Lagos, and the fact that it is the epicentre of this crisis, we will also be creating a permanent structure within the next 4 to 6 months.

“Teams have been set up and world-class standards are being employed to aggressively pursue a solution to this pandemic.

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Okoroafor

“This is a massive effort and all hands must be on deck, which is why at a time like this, it is critical we come together as one. Hence the need to channel all our efforts through the CACOVID umbrella.

“A CBN account has been set up for those who wish to make a monetary contribution.

 

Currency

Account Name

Account Number

Correspondent Bank

Nigerian Naira

COVID-19 Relief fund Account

1000014920

Central Bank of Nigeria

US Dollars

CBN TSA USD

0017575300

CitiBank UK

 

“We shall provide a weekly update to keep you apprised of how this life-saving initiative is being addressed and a monthly financial update to the contributors.

 

“Please continue to follow the health and safety guidelines as mandated by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). Together we can.  Together we will. God bless us all.”

Of course, this might not be the last intervention to be seen from the apex bank in their role to see to the end of a phenomenon that is threatening to wipe out humanity from the face of the earth. So far, Emefiele and his team, have shown enough zeal, focus and capacity to earn the confidence of Nigerians. That testimony certainly would not be forgotten if Nigeria survives this devastating onslaught.

 

Source Whirlwindnews.com

Posted on March, 31 2020

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