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Opinion Presidency

How Nigeria can defeat COVID-19 – Osinbajo

Mr Osinbajo said given the unprecedented nature of the global pandemic, both in its impact and severity, it was clear that it was a challenge the public sector alone cannot tackle.

“As the pandemic’s impact is unprecedented, so too is the commitment of Nigerians both at home and abroad, who have rallied to help one another and stand in solidarity against this deadly virus,” he said.

The vice president spoke on Thursday in Abuja at an event to announce the impending launch of a Nigeria Solidarity Support Fund (NSSF) to provide additional support for Nigeria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fund is an initiative of Global Citizen, a global movement committed to ending extreme poverty by 2030, in collaboration with Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) to enable Nigerians at home or in the diaspora as well as international donors to contribute to Nigeria’s fight against the pandemic.

The event hosted by the NSIA and chaired by the vice president also had the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, in attendance.

Others present included the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the NSIA, Jide Zeitlin, and the Managing Director, Uche Orji, with Global Citizen represented by the Chairman of Global Citizen Nigeria, Babatunde Folawiyo, and the Vice-Chairman, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede.

Mr Osinbajo noted the significant health, social and economic challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has presented across the world, adding that the Nigerian government instituted measures to contain the spread of the virus.

Despite efforts to increase access to testing, ensure contact tracing and isolation as well as implementation of social distancing to contain the potentially devastating impact of this deadly virus, he said more support was needed.

“The government of Nigeria is delighted that the NSIA, together with the world’s leading international advocacy organization, Global Citizen, and their partners, have embarked on a process to set up a new funding vehicle,” he said.

“The NSSF will provide support to our most vulnerable communities in the fight against COVID-19,” he added.

The NSIA Board Chairman, Mr Zeitlin, said the NSSF would be incorporated as a non-government charitable foundation to be managed professionally and transparently governed in line with global best practices.

He said the advisory board of the fund would comprise eminent and qualified men and women to ensure the funds are effectively used and properly accounted for, to the benefit of all Nigerians.

“This stakeholder led-and-resourced mechanism will provide tools to augment ongoing efforts to respond to COVID-19 in communities across Nigeria, as well as to strengthen health systems in the aftermath of the acute pandemic response,” he said.

“As the SWF of the most populous country on the continent, it is important for the Board of the NSIA to support collaborations of this nature, which further strengthens the nation’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The unprecedented challenge posed by the outbreak demands that we embrace flexibility as never before on partnerships with the right organizations to help mobilize support for the fund as well as building sustainable systems in our communities.” Mr Zeitlin said.

The NSIA plays a leading role in driving Nigeria’s sustained economic development through the careful implementation of its three core mandates: building a savings base for the Nigerian people, development of infrastructure and providing stabilisation in times of economic stress.

The Managing Director of NSIA, Uche Orji, said despite that the COVID-19 pandemic has strained the country’s health, social and economic systems, the resolve to work with others to contain the impact of the virus remained unflinching.

He said the NSIA was delighted to partner with Global Citizen in launching the NSSF, as the Fund Manager.

NSIA’s long term infrastructure investment strategy, he noted, entailed creating model tertiary healthcare facilities designed and equipped to international standards to reduce the foreign exchange burden of medical tourism and to develop domestic expertise in tertiary healthcare.

He said the collaboration with Global Citizen would help extend NSIA’s primary care footprint in healthcare delivery in the country.

The fund, he said, would enable the expansion of primary healthcare, thereby improving access, building capacity, and enhancing the resilience of Nigeria’s health delivery, especially in rural and underserved communities.

The Chairman of Global Citizen Nigeria, Tunde Folawiyo, said Global Citizen will mobilise Nigerians at home, Nigerians in the diaspora, global partners, together with the philanthropic and private sectors in support of Nigeria’s fight against COVID-19.

He said Nigeria’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic required individual and collective commitment, adding that through the NSSF, the country would rebuild towards a more responsive and resilient Nigeria in the aftermath of the COVID-19 disaster.

When operational, the fund will target four core COVID-19 response, mitigation and recovery areas, including supporting the most vulnerable populations, strengthening the domestic healthcare systems, expanding access to rural and community focused universal healthcare access, and e-skilling and re-tooling for the “New Nigerian Renaissance” post COVID-19.

The Vice–Chairman, Global Citizen Nigeria, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, said their efforts must ensure they are able to envision and meet the demands that would emerge in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is imperative as the nation adjusts to the realities of a changing economy, transitions to a “new normal” and embraces the Nigeria of the future,” he said.

Although the COVID- 19 pandemic manifests primarily as a global health challenge, he said its impact far exceeds the health sector.

Therefore, he said, efforts to mitigate its impact must not be limited to the acute health sector needs.

To effectively support Nigeria’s response and to emerge from this as a more resilient nation, efforts must take an integrated, systems approach at the centre of which is a mandate to support the most vulnerable communities.

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