Nigeria won’t return to normalcy until 2021, says NCDC DG

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The director-general, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, does not see Nigeria and the rest of the world returning to normalcy until next year — at the very least after the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is optimistic that the country will emerge from the crisis economically stronger.

The VP and the DG spoke at the Platform, an annual event organised by the Poju Oyemade Covenant Nation at the weekend.

Dr. Ihekweazu said Nigeria like other countries, is faced with a difficult reality that will take some time to go away.

“Every country is right now looking at the same challenge and how to get us back to some level of normalcy, but the reality is that we are going to live with COVID-19 for the next year at the very least,” he said.

“So we have to start thinking about how to live safely with COVID-19, and you know some of the changes we would have to make are actually good things to have forever.

“The emphasis on handwashing, sanitisers, respiratory hygiene; my goal as the leader of the NCDC is that we continue this forever.

“That we don’t go back like we did post-Ebola to an era of not washing our hand, not only will they prevent COVID but they will prevent so many other diseases from spreading, ultimately leading us into a better future.

“The thing about mass gathering, it will be a big challenge for us, but we have to try. Every business, every church… every religious gathering of any form, social gatherings, weddings, we really have to rethink how we do this in the short term.

“It’s a sacrifice we would have to make as a people, as a country, to get over this. It will be a challenging time, but this is a sacrifice we would have to pay — we are not alone in this, even the countries we looked up to are facing the same challenges, there is no easy solution.

“Now is a time to build our country despite limitations and find indigenous ways to solve this problem, and make our country recover quicker. To do that, we need this short term pain in order to gain the long term opportunity to return to normal socially rich life Nigerians are known for”

“If there is one great thing that would come out of this, it is that we reinforce our personal hygiene.”

We’ll emerge economically stronger — Osinbajo

Vice President Osinbajo in his contribution said the resilience, innovative spirit and sheer strength of the ordinary Nigerian, coupled with the potential opportunities that have presented themselves with the troubles of the times will pull the country through and make it economically stronger at the end of the pandemic.

“We will get through this much stronger economically and much stronger as a people because of our resilience,” he said.

“There are a lot of challenges but they offer significant opportunities for us to turn things around.

“I am very confident that Nigerians, with our resilience, our strength and our innovation, we will go through this in great shape.”

On specific efforts by government to address the economic fallouts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Osinbajo said prioritizing the use of local resources and creating local jobs in the construction and allied industry, amongst other things, would be critical in sustaining the economy in the post COVID-19 era.

He said: “we have to prioritize the use of local resources in all public works. In road construction for instance, it is cheaper to build concrete roads using limestone than spending resources on the importation of bitumen.

“We have limestone in abundance hence we should be looking in that direction. The road from the Apapa port to the Lagos –Ibadan expressway is being built with cement and is of high quality.

“In the housing sector where we have a huge deficit, we need to focus on using local resources to build houses and in the process we will be creating opportunities for young engineers, architects and builders etc.

“We think that by ramping up agriculture, especially smallholder agriculture and improving the value chain, especially in storage and processing facilities, more jobs will be created for many young people.

“We have found ourselves in a situation where we realize that the way to go is to support the creation of the jobs in agriculture and reduce food imports and ultimately address the issue of unemployment and food shortages.

“What we must do as much as we can is to change the narrative about Nigeria and provide more jobs.”

Still on mitigating the fallouts of the COVID-19 pandemic such as inflation, the Vice President said government would focus on improving productivity and improving food stock across the country.

According to him, “if you can ramp up food production and the logistics of bringing food to the urban centres, inflation will be controlled to a large extent.”

He added that boosting agricultural production for export purposes and supporting the mining sector will bolster the country’s foreign exchange earnings and reserves.

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