By Ikeddy ISIGUZO
ONLY weeks after the exclusion of the South East from projects of the proposed $22.9 billion federal government loan, Federal Government centres have been announced – there is none in the South East and like with the loans, there is no explanation for not locating a testing and isolation centre in the South East. If these centres were meant to be Federal Government’s testing centres, as the Minister of Sports Dr. Sunday Dare announced, why there was none in the five States in the South East?
Dr. Dare said President Buhari approved the National Stadium, Lagos, Liberty Stadium, Ibadan, Moshood Abiola International Stadium, Abuja, and Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna as facilities that could be used for testing and isolation.
There are stadia or spaces that the Federal Government could have used in each of the zones to assist in the availability of testing facilities and isolation centres. The announcement left the South East, South South, North Central, and North East without Federal Government testing centres.
South East’s case is outstanding because it has had a history of neglect whenever federal projects are allocated. How does one explain the most recent situation. If reduction in distances between testing points and the laboratories is the issue, how has the recent location of the proposed testing centres helped?
For the South East, the nearest centres are either in Lagos or Abuja? Why would a people be so treated? Are these still mistakes or deliberate policies of telling the South East that it does not belong to the Federation?
How does one explain this happening so soon after the brouhaha over the projects from the now suspended federal loan? How do these lists pads approval processes without anyone noticing the exclusion of the South East?
Since there is no Federal government stadium in the South East, the Governors Forum should have been asked to propose one of their stadia for the isolation and testing centre. There are stadia in Aba, Onitsha, Abakiliki, Enugu, and Owerri. Any of them would have serve this purpose.
What we are seeing again is the spread of federal projects and the exclusion of the South East. The nature of Corona Virus should have impressed it on the authorities that no part of the country would be safe if any part had people infected with the virus.
Beyond that, the centres that have been announced would be equipped, managed by the Federal Government, with funds and resources that belong to the whole country. Why the discrimination in the allocation of the resources? Are there parts that are no longer in the Federation?
Equity in the allocation of federal resources is important. No part of Nigeria should be left out of the sharing of national resources, especially for causes like the wide spreading Corona Virus. Or what is the government saying by its actions?
The South East Governors Forum Chairman David Umahi is quiet. President-General Ohanaeze Ndigbo Nnia Nwodo is silent. Did they notice what is going on?
In case those making these decisions do not know, let them learn a bit about the South East. The South East should be an area of major concern to Nigeria, in this instance, for good reasons. There is no part of Nigeria that has people travelling to China as often as the traders in the South East do. Many of them, as is tradition, were home for the Christmas holidays, by which time the pandemic had begun in China.
If the figures from the South East could be low, it could be because tests are not being done. Traders should be of immediate concern. The range of their contacts should really be course for worry.
Do those researching possible factors in the spread of the virus not know this? Most of the South East traders in Lagos, also travel regularly to China, then the big markets in the South East. These should have been considerations in the allocation of the testing and isolation centres.
Crowds at our markets in Aba, Onitsha, Nnewi before their closure should heighten concerns about the forgotten South East.
Why have the authorities not thought about these? The absence of testing centres in the South East, in numbers that match the commercial transactions with China, could be the reason why there have been no positive cases, except the two announced in Enugu. They were not traders, and they did not arrive from China.
So where are the traders who frequent China? Where are their contacts? Where are those have patronized their good in the past few months?
The authorities should pursue the activation of a federal testing and isolation centre in the South East with dispatch. Let us assume that the decision makers had no idea of how vulnerable the South East is, they should know now and act. It is important that they act urgently.
Some would argue that the Federal Government announcement that National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, orientation camps should be used as testing and isolation centres would mean that every State has a federal testing and isolation. They are not the same thing. NYSC orientation camps are owned by state governments.
Access to them – they are mostly located far from where they would benefit from the facilities that would be required to combat the virus – to most of them is challenging, disqualifying them from the emergency centres they should be. Moreover, the State lack the resources to operate them.
Why did Federal Government centres have to be announced, including the National Stadium Lagos, with run down facilities that would not be useful to the matter at hand, if the NYSC orientation camps were useful? The resources that have been amassed to fight Corona Virus would be utilised in the federal centres.
Our NYSC orientation camps, under our governments, would not have the resources to manage the virus in a manner that would not turn fight against the pandemic to a circus. The Corona Virus is too vicious to be subjected to biased policies.
It is not late to correct the mistake. No zone should be left out in the designation of testing and isolation centres that would bring relief closer to our peoples. We can only win the war together, if we fight the virus together.
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