Against accusations that the Plateau State government has expended N1 billion to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Simon Lalong has said his administration has only committed about N366.5 so far.
Lalong disclosed this during his address earlier today in Jos, the capital city.
He said; “In terms of financial commitment, the state government has so far committed about N366.5 million naira to the fight against Covid-19.”
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, while alleging wasteful spending under Simon’s administration, accused him of “lavishing” the sum of N1 billion to fight the pandemic.
The PDP publicity secretary in the state, John Akans, made the allegation on Wednesday.
During the media briefing on Monday, Lalong explained that in addition to the amount committed, the state launched the Plateau State Covid-19 Endowment Fund which saw good spirited individuals and corporate organisations making donations.
“We are grateful to kind hearted people including many of you that contributed about N123.3 million as well as other food and medical items valued at about N155 million. We similarly appreciate the World Health Organisation that recently donated N100 million to the state government which has greatly helped us to treat those infected by the virus.”
He said such donations enhanced the state’s capacity to distribute palliatives to the weak and vulnerable to cushion the impact of the pandemic.
“The distributions have been handled in the most transparent manner under the supervision of His Excellency, the deputy governor, Prof. Sonni Tyoden.”
Lalong also announced that the government received donations by the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) comprising maize flour, pasta, noodles, sugar, salt, and semolina worth about N850 million for distribution to 39,993 households across the 17 local government areas.
According to him, the state is still expecting a rice consignment from the CACOVID donation which will be distributed to the beneficiaries.
Speaking on the effort to contain the spread of the virus, which has killed over 1,000 persons across the country, Lalong recalled the various steps the government took before and after the state recorded its index case.
“Before the advent of the disease in Plateau State, we took difficult decisions to ensure that we guard against the pandemic. We closed all schools, banned public gatherings, cultural festivals and anniversaries, closed markets, and restricted movement along our borders.”
“Having constituted the Plateau State Task Force on Covid-19 which is personally chaired by me, we established sub-committees that carried out surveillance, medical assessments, enforcement, as well as embarked on massive public enlightenment.”
“In addition to establishing isolation and quarantine centres, we worked on preparing treatment facilities within the state. This led me to visit the Plateau Specialist Hospital, Jos University Teaching Hospital and the Bingham University Teaching Hospital where I ordered the purchase of ventilators, personal protective equipment and medications.”
Lalong said that although declaring lockdowns in the entire state was a difficult decision, it has been productive with the support of the people.
“Such action demonstrates the true Plateau spirit of Think and Act Plateau which I have constantly emphasized. At challenging times such as this, we need to put our political, religious and ethnic differences aside to work for the good of our people. Let us continue to keep this spirit alive,” he said.
He however announced the establishment of three testing centres in Plateau State, which he claimed to have facilitated using his office as the chairperson of North Central Governors’ forum.
“Today, we have testing centres at the NVRI Vom, Plateau Specialists Hospital and the Jos University Teaching Hospital. In addition, we have ordered mobile testing vans, which have capacity to diagnose over 30 health conditions including Covid-19, HIV, Ebola, hepatitis among others.”
According to him, the state is now rated third best in the country in terms of testing.
He also decried the lack of compliance to guidelines and protocols, denials and resistance to contact tracing and testing by some individuals.
“That is why we need the support and cooperation of critical stakeholders like you to overcome these challenges. Your presence here today is therefore very crucial as we work together to take measures that will lead to greater sensitization and enforcement within your spheres of influence. We need to curtail further spread of the disease by engaging our people to take personal responsibility for their health and the health of others,” he told the residents.
Lalong also said that schools will be reopened before the end of October.
He hinted that a committee headed by the secretary to the government of the state, Danladi Atu, has been set up to look into full resumption.
“We have also trained teachers and principals, disinfected schools, and established task teams towards ensuring that all laid down protocols are observed. Once we finish with exit classes, we shall gradually cascade to other classes within secondary and primary levels.”
“When the Presidential Task Force team inspected (to ascertain) compliance to Covid-19 protocols during the just concluded WAEC examinations, Plateau State was rated first in the North Central Region. We hope to build on such a record until we reopen tertiary institutions and indeed all our schools by the end of October if all things fall into place.”