By Abdullahi M. Gulloma
President Muhammadu Buhari said Wednesday that the support the present government has received from the private sector in addressing social ills is enough to make him the ”envy of many presidents of the world.”
The President spoke in Abuja at the commissioning and handover of security equipment valued at over 12 billion to the military and Nigeria Police Force.
The items were donated by the Coalition of Private Sector Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) – a group of eminent Nigerian industrialists, including Aliko Dangote and Herbert Wigwe, who had also pooled N40 billion to combat COVID-19 in the country.
”Ladies and gentlemen. Today is indeed a very happy day for all Nigerians, and I can happily say that I am the envy of many Presidents in the world.
”I am exceedingly honoured to be the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, at this time.
”I am gratified to have the honour of leading a country whose private sector willingly galvanises itself to raise funds to enthusiastically support government in resolving social ills.
”I am proud to say that there is nowhere in the entire world, except in Nigeria, where the private sector has voluntarily come together to assist government efforts,” he said.
The President thanked all members of CACOVID, the leadership team and technical committee, for their support and patriotism.
”This final gesture from CACOVID as you wind down your activities is equally very important. Thank you for supporting our Administration’s efforts to strengthen the Police and Military as we face the security challenges that all modern nations face.
”These 350 vehicles and thousands of vests and helmets you are handing over today will go a long way in boosting the capacity of our forces,” he said.
He said that such a patriotic gesture was proof that nationalistic determination is still alive in Nigeria, in the face of enormous challenges pervading the world and the country.
Recounting the history of CACOVID, the President said the initiative was set up following a quick-thinking recognition of the impending crisis that could erupt due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
”The main objective of this concept was primarily to assist the government, at all tiers, in combating Covid-19 and mitigating its impact on Nigerians.
”Accordingly, the Coalition designed a mechanism to pool funds voluntarily from an alliance that included more than 100 private sector institutions, organisations, banks, and individuals in order to build Isolation Centres, procure remedial Covid-19 medications, and provide palliatives to indigent Nigerians or those whose livelihoods were temporarily impacted by the outbreak.
”I am very much aware that in the first tranche of funds pooling, CACOVID collected almost N40 billion from the various private sector organisations who were more than happy to participate in the initiative and support its cause.
”Out of the initial N40 billion contributed by the Coalition, about N17 billion was applied to speedily build Isolation Centres, acquire various medical equipment and gears, facilitate vaccine delivery, and urgently procure vital Covid-19 medications for those critically in need of them nationwide.
”The balance sum of N22.2 billion was utilised to purchase staple food items, including rice, Garri, noodles, Soya, Semolina, Sugar, Pasta and Salt etc, which were delivered to all states of the federation and the FCT, and distributed among all Nigerians who were in most need of them,” he said.
According to the President, in its drive to play its part in ensuring a golden Nigeria, CACOVID, which also received the support of the Central Bank of Nigeria, expanded its scope beyond combating COVID-19.
He said that following the unsavoury national unrest in 2020 and the continuing security challenges in the country, the Coalition again galvanised support among private sector organisations to support the Federal Government in surmounting the security challenges.
”In this regard, the Coalition commendably raised the sum of N12 billion, which was used to procure critical security equipment for our domestic law enforcement and defence organisations,” he said.
The following state-of the-art security vehicles and equipment were procured for use by law enforcement agencies in Abuja and Lagos:
One hundred units of 14-tons Tata trucks; One Hundred units of 12 tons Tata trucks; One Hundred and six units of Toyota Vans; Sixty-four units of Nissan Navara vans; Thirteen thousand Ballistic Vests; Twenty-Six thousand Ballistic Plates and Thirteen thousand Ballistic Helmets.
In his remarks, Alhaji Dangote listed Folorunsho Alakija, Tony Elumelu, Segun Agbaje, Abdulsamad Rabiu, Femi Otedola, Adesola Adeduntan, Karl Toriola, Haresh Aswani, Raji Gupta and John Coumantaros as the moving forces behind CACOVID, who contributed several billions of naira each and supported the CACOVID effort with advocacy and their teams.
He explained that in addition to the leadership team, a technical committee was set to guide the purchasing decisions, which was critical, given the prevailing confusion around testing and treatment options, and the lack of successful models anywhere in the world.
He identified members of that committee as leading Nigerian scientists and public health professionals, the Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Director-General of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 , representatives of WHO, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Nations.
”For the last two years, the leadership team met on a weekly basis, mobilised others in the private sector, and were able to raise N82 billion to provide 39 fully kitted isolation centres, testing supplies for almost 1 million tests and food for 10 million vulnerable individuals across the country,” he said.
Ge said from the N82 billion, the CACOVID team also donated oxygen and tanks to the most affected states, supported vaccines delivery and distribution, supported the reopening of the economy via travel portal, IT, airport scanners and Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), among others.
He expressed appreciation to the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 team led by Boss Mustapha, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) for their excellent collaboration.
He said the donation of the security vehicles and equipment marks the end of the CACOVID initiative, which he described as ”an example of patriotism, solidarity and efficiency in terms of partnership between the public and private sectors. ”
”This is a lesson in the power of collaboration for a worthy cause,” he said.
Godwin Emefiele, CBN Governor, told the President he was proud to be part of the Coalition that supported government in its fight against insecurity.
”I am immensely gratified by what CACOVID has achieved in its few years of existence. The nationalist and patriotic drive of my colleagues therein is unmatched anywhere in the world and must be applauded.
”The Coalition is a good example of what Nigeria must become: a nation of patriotic solidarity of individuals and corporations, and effective collaboration of the public and private sectors,” he said.
The commissioning and handover of the security equipment event preceded the Security Council meeting chaired by President Buhari.
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