By Olisa Agbakoba
The Coronavirus disease, COVID-19 has exposed the fragility of the public health system of many countries. The global pandemic has precipitated fundamental disruptions that that will change the ways in which many things are done the world forever. Nigeria is not left out.
For Nigeria to handle COVID-19 successfully, especially in view of Nigeria`s weak public health system and paucity of funds, I need to make two overriding points: the need to depart from international strategy by developing a Nigerian Strategy in managing COVID-19 and diversification of the economy in view of dwindling oil revenue.
On the need for a Nigerian Strategy on COVID-19, I call on the federal government to interrogate available quinine medications and to engage Nigerian virologists and infectious diseases specialists, public health professionals and Traditional and Herbal medicine Institutions with a view to exploring local Nigerian solutions to COVID-19. This approach will also help to enhance the capacity of Nigerian Specialists. This is in line with the policy of promoting and utilizing local content. I also call on the Federal government to develop a decentralized strategy for COVID-19 by delegating and assigning some responsibility to State governments.
It is gratifying to note that the federal government has already initiated some measures including a lockdown policy. While commending the federal government for the COVID-19 measures taken so far, I am concerned with the sustainability of the lockdown policy in view of lack of social welfare system and scarce financial resources. I therefore call on the government to lift the strict lockdown restrictions and allow some flexibility so as to allow some level of work and economic activities within some parameters.
The strategy for diversifying the economy has been urgent and very important as part of the post COVID-19 economic strategy. To this end there is need to strengthen the agricultural and manufacturing sectors. The National Trade and Transportation policies need to be adopted, and so is the need for the enactment of trade remedy legislation. Nigeria also must take issues relating to digital economy seriously. A well developed digital economy will not only create millions of jobs, improve citizens` taxable income, and generate revenue for government, which directly increases government spending power. The federal government must ensure the implementation of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy Document 2020-2030.
I conclude by stating that the time has come for the federal government of Nigeria to adopt the policy of thinking globally and acting locally in solving the COVID-19 problem. What we need is home-grown Nigerian solution independent of the efforts being made in developed countries. While the West has the resources for a total lockdown we must adopt our Nigerian COVID-19 Strategy to suit local and Nigerian situation.