The Presidents of West African countries under the aegis of ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government have appointed President Muhammadu Buhari as Champion of the COVID-19 response.
President Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, disclosed this in a statement on Thursday.
He explained that the appointment took place at the Extraordinary ECOWAS Summit on COVID-19 which was held via teleconferencing.
The meeting was presided over by the President of the Republic of Niger and Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, Mahamadou Issoufou.
President Buhari, during the teleconference, called on fellow ECOWAS leaders to look beyond the challenges posed by the COVID -19 pandemic and tap into various opportunities it has presented for the betterment of lives in member states.
“In every challenging situation such as the current one, there are also opportunities,” he was quoted as saying in the statement.
The President added, “Our region must, therefore, seek to find those opportunities provided by this gloomy global outlook for its benefit by embarking on the implementation of such critical policies, which before now, will be difficult to accept.”
He called on his colleagues to intensify collaboration in order to save the region from the pandemic by sharing their experiences and best practices.
President Buhari, therefore, outlined some measures taken by his government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
These include the reduction of interest rates on all applicable Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) interventions from nine to five per cent and introduction of a one- year moratorium on CBN intervention facilities, as well as the inauguration of the Presidential Task Force to coordinate national efforts to combat the spread of the virus and ensure efficiency and effectiveness in line with the Nigerian Action Plan on Health Security.
Other measures, according to the President, are provision of relief materials, including medical and food supplies, as well as conditional cash transfers of N20,000 each for poor and vulnerable households; and the establishment of more isolation centres and testing facilities to contain the spread of the disease.
Doing Things Differently
The Nigerian leader noted that unprecedented economic uncertainties, including severe fiscal and foreign exchange constraints, amid a slowdown in global economic growth that most nations were grappling with, have made it imperative for West Africa to refocus on accelerating the implementation of its popular vision of ‘ECOWAS of the people’ by adopting dynamic regional policies aimed at providing relief to the people.
“Despite declining revenues, government continues to spend massively on the containment of the virus, medical care for those infected and minimising impact of the crisis on the poor and vulnerable.
“This situation puts severe pressure on our finances by increasing our expenditures amid dwindling revenues. This invariably has led to a restructuring and reduction of our budget,” he said.
President Buhari used the occasion to rally other leaders to embrace agriculture, technology, and innovation in order to emerge stronger.
He stated, “It is imperative that while addressing short term challenges, we should also explore opportunities to promote strong and dynamic agricultural policies that will guarantee food security for our people, creating jobs and reducing poverty in the region.
“We must innovate and use technology to boost the digital economy and do things differently, but better,” he said.
The Nigerian President affirmed Nigeria’s solidarity with other member states as they battle the virus.
He said, “At a time of global uncertainty such as this, caused by the devastating impact of the COVID-19, let me convey Nigeria’s solidarity with all the Member States as we collectively battle to defeat the pandemic.
“I am greatly saddened by the loss of numerous lives and extend my heartfelt condolences to families of those who have lost loved ones throughout the region. I also wish infected victims speedy and full recovery.”
He reiterated Nigeria’s commitment to the well-being and safety of the people in the sub-region, as well as its support for any initiative that would curb the spread of the pandemic arising from the Summit.