SPEECH DELIVERED BY THE HON. MINISTER OF INDUSTRY, TRADE AND INVESTMENT, OTUNBA NIYI ADEBAYO, CON AT THE PRESS BRIEFING ON COVID-19 PANDEMIC TO CURTAIL ITS NEGATIVE IMPACT ON THE MANUFACTURING, TRADE AND RELATED SECTORS OF THE ECONOMY ON MONDAY, 6TH APRIL, 2020
Gentlemen of the Press:
As you are all aware, on Sunday, March 29th, 2020, in a national broadcast to the citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR), announced measures to curb the Coronavirus pandemic. In the speech, he announced the total restriction of movement in Lagos State, Ogun State and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. He also announced measures to enforce social distancing and other preventive measures aimed at curbing the pandemic.
2. Additionally, since cases began to spring up across the country, State government’s have announced actions ranging from partial lockdowns, to outright bans on movement, to ensure that the spread of the Coronavirus is controlled, is limited or declared non-existent in their respective states.
3. Make no mistake, these are critical times. As seen around the world, the Coronavirus has demonstrated significant potential to disrupt health and economic activities in countries across Europe, Asia and North and South America and now Africa. This is why, in a nation like ours, where a major segment of our population live off daily wages, it is imperative that our citizens have access to essential products.
4. Consequently, Mr. President has directed our Ministry to work with the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN); the Nigerian Association of Chamber of Commerce Industry Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA); Nigerian Traders Association (NANTS); and other affiliated stakeholders to guarantee that the production of essential items like food, medical and pharmaceutical products continues unhindered.
5. As a result of the aforementioned, we have taken several proactive steps in-line with Mr. President’s specific directive, in the service of Nigerian people.
6. On the 21st of March, 2020, we set up a ‘Committee on the Sustainable Production and Delivery of Essential Commodities during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
7. After this Committee was established, I addressed the press on Monday, the 23rd, March, 2020. In that engagement, I emphasized that all measures necessary to protect and promote the health and safety of industrial and related workers, their families, communities and the nation at large must be put in place.
8. To aid this process, we have established an Emergency Operation Center to monitor the supply of essential commodities. This Operation Center, which is housed in our Ministry, will help to monitor the real-time status of the transportation and delivery of essential goods to cut down on the difficulties being faced by manufacturers, transporters, and distributors of essential commodities across the country.
9. As we work to deliver on these key objectives, there has been a dedicated secretariat in place – of men and women from the public and private sectors – who have been working round the clock to ensure that truckloads of food, drugs and other essential items get to their points of destination across the nation.
10. After subsequent engagements with the leadership of MAN and NACCIMA, one critical constraint that was identified is the fact that while working to comply with the directive of Mr. President, distributors and manufacturers still had restricted movement due to the enforcement of the lockdown by the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies.
11. In this regard, I would like to thank the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, for his cooperation, and the assistance of his men in ensuring that all legitimate requests from the Secretariat that we have set up are promptly cleared. What this means is that the raw material needs of our manufacturers are being met; and recognized road transporters of essential goods are able to transport goods. This synergy, between our law enforcement agencies, our essential manufacturers and producers and the Ministry, has allowed us to be able to meet critical demands at this time.
12. I would also like to thank the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, for the partnership with our Ministry. To respond appropriately to this crisis, the Aviation Ministry has availed us the use of a number of aircraft to facilitate the movement of essential products and personnel across the nation. Additionally, the personnel of the Nigeria Customs Service, under the able leadership of Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali, must also be singled out at this pivotal juncture in our nation’s history, for their work in ensuring the free-flow of essential cargo through our ports to the final destinations across the country.
13. Furthermore, as we brace ourselves to respond effectively and thoroughly to this crisis, we have been engaging with the Ministry of Health, NAFDAC, the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), and NCDC to identify and augment the list of essential goods and services.
14. We are working with SON and NAFDAC to ensure the acceleration of the issuance of Certificates of Standards of essential items – without sacrificing the quality of these items. Such items include hand sanitizers; coveralls for our medical workers; face masks; needles; goggles; gloves; Sodium Hypo Chloride; and Digital Thermometers.
15. We are also engaging our indigenous car manufacturers at this time to prepare themselves to tweak their operations to begin the manufacture of ‘Made in Nigeria’ ventilators – a critical medical equipment in the fight against the virus.
16. Other noteworthy internal actions that we have taken at the Ministry since the onset of the crisis include: a staff sensitization exercise for up to 400 of our officials, to ensure that they adopt global best practices while dealing with this pandemic. Additionally, throughout the Ministry’s headquarters, we have provided sanitizers to our staff and at strategic points of location within the Ministry.
17. With the support of the NCDC, we have also embarked on the training of emergency COVID-19 volunteers – who now have the requisite skills to handle emergencies in the workplace.
18. Ladies and gentlemen, I would be remiss if I do not appreciate and applaud the partnership of the media throughout this entire endeavour. Since this crisis began, journalists across the nation have served as partners in the process of meeting our objectives. I thank you all for your commitment and patriotism.
19. This is a critical moment for the entire world – and a significant point in our nation’s history. The knowledge that we have gained in this period will continue to serve us down the line. Moving forward, the lesson for Nigeria from this pandemic and its associated global challenges is that we must continue to work to build an economy that is resilient and innovative; one that can withstand the impact of the risks and vulnerabilities that are accruable from an increasingly globalized economy. Hence, there is a need to have a post-COVID-19 Committee that will address some of these challenges as we prepare for the future. Accordingly, in the coming week, this Committee will be inaugurated to begin its work.
20. We ask that Nigerians should remain calm and positive that this pandemic we are all experiencing will soon come to an end – and our Ministry in collaboration with all other stakeholders will continue to ensure that its impact on the economy and on households across the country is significantly reduced, as directed by Mr. President.
21. Rest assured, we will continue to update the general public on new developments including fresh initiatives taken by the Ministry as they develop.
22. Thank you all and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.