A Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chieftain and former Nigeria Ambassador to the Philippines during President Goodluck Jonathan administration, Dr. Yemi Farounbi in this interview with Richard Thomas, spoke on wide range of issues especially the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also charged the government at all levels to create a database for over 200million Nigerians in order to have access to every individual during this pandemic lockdown.
What is your view on ways Government at all levels in the country are handling this COVID-19 pandemic?
Incidentally, it is a global crisis that is affecting the whole world, and the only way the pandemic can enter a country is by importing it. And after getting into the country, it becomes community distribution.
If we had shut our boundaries earlier, we would have prevented the import of the affected people into the country. But we didn’t do that because the early cases are those who have travelled abroad.
We didn’t introduce quarantine early enough for those who came in , so if you don’t shut all boundaries that means you allow more people to bring the virus into the country.
By the time COVID-19 started, we had only five testing centres for a population of about 200million and It took time, even today we probably have about 16 centres and there are still some state that doesn’t have isolation centres for the treatment of those who have contracted the virus.
The nation ought to have been expecting this virus issues and put in a lot of efforts and resources in finding a medical solution to it.
We shouldn’t just be relying on the World Health Organisation (WHO) or what other Countries would do in terms of vaccination.
We could have done better than what Madagascar did because in terms of Herbs Nigeria is at the top. We have herbs that other countries don’t have. We Nigerians have Herbal mixture as part of our culture.
We have not invested enough time and resources in finding a solution that can cure COVID-19.
When eventually we responded by locking down some states by banning movement and imposing curfews, the implementation was inadequate.
The security agencies that would suppose to prevent interstate movement to enforce curfew become toll gate by collecting money from people to allow them in, this is the reason the COVID-19 widespread.
The lockdown has had a negative effect on the economy. Nigeria runs a largely informal economy where most Nigeria are into “Work and Eat” which are the petty traders.
When you impose lockdown, you are locking down the income source of those people who fall under that informal sector which means government most have palliative for them.
With the nature of our economy, we don’t have a record of people to enable us to know who to give palliative to and how to reach them. The government should have gone through the voter’s card and ask everybody to go to their polling unit for palliative collection.
Government giving palliatives to the poorest of the poor, I see it as sloganiary, there is poorest of the poor but we don’t know how to locate them, their needs, and how the pandemic has affected their daily income from what they are making now compared to before COVID-19.
And I hope government all over can use this opportunity to learn a lesson that we need a database to make us know where individual lives and what they do for a living so we can know who the poorest of the poor are.
Engr Seyi Makinde is well-intentioned he wants to take care of the poorest of the poor but doesn’t know where they are, it is a national problem, not the state alone.
What is the faith of Nigerians economically life after COVID-19?
It is going to be a very serious matter because of the lockdown, a lot of farmers have not been able to farm as we approach their season. The palliative we are giving now may be nothing compared with what we will need in another three months because there would have been no farm product so we are asking for farming.
If we are thinking of palliative because of the lockdown, we must also be thinking of the farming season that will come and go. Feeding is going to be a major problem because if there is no farm product it is going to affect the informal market business.
We have not been able to import for three or four months now and those who sell imported things have not been able to bring them.
Most industries don’t work in-crowd, it is usually one man and a machine so that factory should begin to operate particularly.
Those small scale factory because they are the largest employer in town. Worldwide, there is going to be economic disaster and Nigeria will be among.
When do you think is the right time for the government to ease the lockdown, especially on schools, religious centres and others?
It is logical. If you are able to open market where there are over 1000 people who buy, sell and move around. why don’t you allow the 300 or 200 churches to operate? You cannot compare the crowd of religious centres with market population, the interactions in market places is different because it is between the buyer and the seller.
If you can obey the rules of social distancing but in the religious centre it is one cleric to a lot of people and there can be passionately involved in the religious centres
Although there are people who say that this is the time to beg God, people will do what they know how to do best in the religious centres if they can maintain social distancing.
The religious centres will only divide their services to ensure social distancing, but the government do not trust them because without easing the lockdown they have been operating their services.