President Muhammadu Buhari Monday in Abuja said only a collective international approach will mitigate the devastating effect of COVID-19, while assuring that the Federal Government will intensify efforts to monitor, test and isolate more people, especially at the community level.
President Buhari, who participated in a virtual Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), said national, regional and global strategies would be required to tackle the pandemic, which, he said, had ravaged humanity and caused unprecedented devastation to the well-being of people, their livelihoods, and global economy.
“The theme of this extra-ordinary Summit ‘United Against COVID-19 Pandemic,’ aptly reflects the importance for a proactive approach and the need for multilateral cooperation in finding quick solutions to the challenges that COVID-19 pandemic poses to our nations.
“Since the outbreak of the disease, countries have made concerted efforts to limit the spread of the pandemic within and outside their borders as well as treating those infected by the virus.
“Two weeks ago, we in West Africa came together to work out a common sub-regional response to the crisis. The summit appointed me the Champion to lead our efforts on fighting the pandemic in our region.’’
The President said the task before the international community remains daunting, and more needs to be done to reduce the impact of COVID-19.
According to him, “It is now clearly evident that no nation can independently and singlehandedly tackle a pandemic of this nature which is no respecter of borders, regions or status.
“Invariably, enhancing multilateral cooperation through exchange and sharing of best practices is imperative to overcome the disease. We must, therefore, form a united front against this common enemy by being coordinated and timely in our responses.
“Furthermore, we must all encourage and empower our scientists and medical experts to join the quest for a vaccine and cure to this universal plague.’’
The President told Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned Movement that the central role of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) in fighting the pandemic must be acknowledged and leveraged for the benefit of all member nations.
“It is, therefore, essential to fully collaborate and support their initiatives in coordinating the international fight against the pandemic. Such efforts should include the protection of our medical workers, provision of medical supplies, especially test kits and ultimately, finding a vaccine to cure the disease.’’
President Buhari urged international financial institutions to assist member states in cushioning the negative impact of the pandemic in the spirit of solidarity, which will include extending concessional loans, technical support, lowering of tariff on medical equipment and consumables, sharing of expertise in case management, adopting open trade policies, as well as outright debt cancellation.
“Within the spirit of South-South cooperation, we must also assist one another, particularly the less developed and less endowed member states with technical, medical, and financial assistance. It is by so doing that we can rightly claim to uphold the Bandung Principles of equality, mutual interests, and cooperation.’’
On efforts to control the spread of the virus in Nigeria, and ameliorate the economic effect, the President said:
“We have closed our land borders and airports and reduced seaport activities in a bid to curb imported cases from entering the country. Unfortunately, the number of confirmed cases continues to rise as a result of community transmission of the disease.
“Accordingly, we have increased our efforts to monitor trends of the disease, established more isolation centres and stepped up testing at the community level and of potentially vulnerable groups.’’
He said various relief materials were handed out, including medical and food supplies as well as conditional cash transfer to about 3.6 million vulnerable households affected by the stay at home order, while responding to the economic needs of citizens by supporting households and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) affected by COVID-19 induced economic downturn.
The President noted that a Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 was set up, and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control strengthened to face challenges of mobilization, sensitization and implementation of all decisions.
President Buhari commended His Excellency, Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement for organizing the extra-ordinary summit, and condoled with all members that lost citizens to COVID-19.
In his remarks to the Summit, President of the UN General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, pledged that his office would continue to work with NAM to promote partnerships and galvanise the needed engagement to defeat COVID-19 and reduce its impact on communities.
While commending WHO, NAM member-states, civil society and the private sector, for providing vital support and services in the fight to defeat the pandemic, the President of the General Assembly called on all those that have the capacity, to financially support the UN’s COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response plan.
‘‘COVID-19 has disrupted billions of lives with far-reaching effects on the health and livelihoods of people.
‘‘The International Labour Organization estimates that workers will lose as much as 3.4 trillion US Dollars in income by the end of 2020. Global health systems are under enormous stress and global travel has been severely impacted.
‘‘States, corporations and families are already counting losses that could only be imagined in a state of war. Without alternative sources of income, workers and their families will have no means to survive,’’ he said.
Muhammad-Bande, who is also Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, said while no country is spared from the scourge of this pandemic or its socio-economic impact, developing nations are bearing the heaviest brunt of it – even if they do not experience an outbreak of COVID-19.
He warned that the pandemic had deepened pre-existing inequalities between and among nations, putting immense strain on tenuous systems and plunging those in the most precarious contexts into deeper poverty and hunger.