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immediate Past Vice-Chancellor of Bells University of Technology, Ota,Professor Isaac Adebayo Adeyemi

Why COVID-19 pandemic adversely affects food importation to Nigeria – Immediate Past Vice-Chancellor, BUT, Professor Adeyemi

 

Professor Isaac Adebayo Adeyemi, immediate Past Vice-Chancellor of Bells University of Technology, Ota, has said that the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely  affected  food importation to Nigeria.

In a special interview with the Editor of Skybirdnews Group, Mr. Charles Nwaoguji, he stated that the  consumers must braze up for a food deficit in the short term which may dovetail into the challenges of the nation in achieving the aims and objectives of the sustainable development goals, most especially goal number 2 which is “zero hunger” by the year 2030.

The Professor of Food Science and Technology noted that  a weakened economy like that of Nigeria that depends mainly on oil as her source of income would not have the financial resources to meet the exigencies of survival as the price of crude oil has tumbled globally.

“These are compounded by the relatively poor post-harvest storage and food handling facilities and under-developed food industry in all its segments,” he explained.

In this interview, he spoke on the effect COVID-19 pandemic on food industry, how this disease   affects Nigeria economy, way forward  and etc.

Excerpt,

Effect of Corona virus on food industry

The food sector is an important component of the Nigerian economy which is very important in ensuring food and nutrition security of the populace. This is apparent from the reactions in most States that are under lockdown with the clamour for food which has encouraged some “good Samaritans” to assist the less privileged by distributing food as palliatives. Happening at this period in time when the food production chain in Nigeria has been highly fragile over the years with Nigeria’s heavy dependence on food importation. Recent attempts at revamping the sector had been met with some challenges such communal clashes, herdsmen attacks, insurgencies especially in the North-East and banditry attacks in several parts of the country. These are compounded by the relatively poor post-harvest storage and food handling facilities and under-developed food industry in all its segments.

This global pandemic will adversely food importation as other countries are being affected and as such would concentrate on meeting internal food demands before responding to external requests. Furthermore, a weakened economy like that of Nigeria that depends mainly on oil as her source of income would not have the financial resources to meet the exigencies of survival as the price of crude oil has tumbled globally. We should also not forget the fact that food production, like in most parts of the world, is climate dependent. Corona virus has struct at the time when Nigerian farmers were to commence land preparations for planting which may be relatively late by the time the clampdown is lifted. While it may be too early to predict the effect of the pandemic on food production and output within the Nigeria’s food sector, government, relevant stakeholders in the industry and the  consumers must braze up for a food deficit in the short term which may dovetail into the challenges of the nation in achieving the aims and objectives of the sustainable development goals, most especially goal number 2 which is “zero hunger” by the year 2030.

How COVID-19  affects Nigeria economy

It goes without any gainsaying that the global economies have been adversely affected, Nigerian economy inclusive. The lockdown has resulted in the closure of most industries and other enterprises with the exception of essential services. The adverse effects are yet to be quantified and it is hoped that the various organs of government and various professional bodies would come up in quantifiable terms the effects on the Nigerian economy and come up with strategies of revamping the economy

Steps government should take to tackle this deadly disease

Yes. I believe the steps taken so far by the Federal government and in the States that have recorded relatively high figures of infection are in the right directions.  One must commend Lagos State Government for the proactive steps taken so far at curtailing the spread of corona virus. This is not unexpected as Lagos State served as reference point in the fight of Ebola some years back. There is no doubt the technical committees at federal and state levels are made up of seasoned professional health workers who know their onions.  I believe that all other steps cannot be faulted although implementations of some of these steps may be faulted. One should not be surprised as no government or world power ever prepared fully for it. This is most obvious in Nigeria which already has an under developed and fragile health care system. What is most worrisome to me is the occasional politicizing the pandemic and, in some few cases, Lack of cooperation and understanding between the federal and some state governments. They should realize that human lives are involved and toying with a single life amounts to sin if such a life is lost as those in positions of authority and who take decisions will surely appear before the judgement seat of God, like all us would do, to account for the lives entrusted into their care. That is my own belief and religious inclination.

Government should make use of fund getting from donors wisely

It is too early in the day to ascertain that. Furthermore, am not competent to make any valid comment based on ear say. My suggestion to governments, federal and state, is  to set up an independent and non-governmental  audit committee comprising of practicing professionals to audit the books and make their findings public. To me, that’s the only way members of the various committees and government can come clean of whatever ongoing accusations and allegations may be. This would also ensure confidence on the part of donors whether local or foreign who must be commended for massively rising up to the occasion.

History of global pandemic

The current corona virus, COVID-19, is not specific to Nigeria but a global pandemic of which the country, Nigeria, is not left out. There is no doubt, global or regional pandemic  is not new and have always occurred at various times in history. For instance available records through Google showed that twenty worst epidemics and pandemics have been recorded in history. These are : Prehistoric epidemic which occurred around 3000 B.C., about 5,000 years ago which  wiped out a prehistoric village in China.

Plague of Athens in 430 B.C.  with the death toll as high as 100,000 attributed, possibly, to typhoid fever and Ebola.

Antonine plague between 165-180 A.D., probably smallpox, was claimed to have killed over 5 million people in the Roman Empire.

Plague of Cyprian, 250-271 A.D., was recorded to have killed 5,000 in a day in Rome. However, the cause was unknown.

Plague of Justinian, 541-542 A.D., which ravaged  the Byzantine Empire leading to the death of an estimated 10% of the then world’s population, killing up to 25 million people. It was recorded that the plague extended beyond this period (541-542 A.D) with occasional reoccurrence.

The Black Death (1346-1353 A.D.) which originated from Asia and spread to Europe was recorded to have wiped out half of Europe’s population with bodies of victims buried in mass grave. The plague was known to have been caused by a strain of a  bacterium which is extinct today.

Cocoliztli  epidemic due to an infection in a form of viral hemorrhagic (enteric) fever;  attributed to infection caused by Salmonellawhich includes typhoid, dehydration and gastrointestinal problems. This epidemic was reported to have killed 15 million inhabitants of Mexico and Central America.

American Plagues of the 16th century are referred to as “Eurasian diseases brought to the Americas by European explorers” with the illnesses found to include smallpox. It was estimated that 90% of the indigenous population in the Western Hemisphere was killed off.

Great Plague of London (1665-1666) suspected to have been transmitted  through fleas from plague-infected rodents leading to the death of about 100,000 people, including 15% of the population of London. Unfortunately, this was followed by the ‘Great Fire of London’ on September 2, 1666which lasted for four days and got  a large portion of London the city burnt down.

Great Plague of Marseille (1720-1723) caused through  fleas on plague-infected rodents on board of a ship that carried cargo from the eastern Mediterranean. Over a period of three years, over 100,000 people was reported to have died with up to 30% of the population of Marseille might have perished.

Russian Plague (1770-1772) resulted into violence when people were not encouraged to gather for worship.

Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic of 1793 resulted in the death of more than 5,000.

Flu pandemic (1889-1890), which had wrecked havocs due to rapid spread of influenza  virusesdue to improved transportation. Report had it that it took just five weeks for the epidemic to reach its peak leading to a loss of over 1 million lives.

American polio epidemic of 1916 which started in New York City caused 27,000 cases and 6,0000 deaths.

Spanish Flu (1918-1920)with an estimated 500 million of the people that fell victim were drawn from the South Seas to the North Pole with mortality rate estimated at 10% to 20% .

Asian Flu (1957-1958) which had its roots in China claimed more than 1.1million lives worldwide, with an estimated 116,000 deaths occurring in the United States.

AIDS pandemic and epidemic (1981-present day) has been recorded to have claimed an estimated 35 million lives worldwide since it was first identified. Meanwhile, it is believed that 64% of the estimated 40 million living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) live in sub-Saharan Africa.

H1N1 Swine Flu pandemic (2009-2010), with its origin in Mexico before spreading to the rest of the world, was caused by a new strain of H1N1. The virus infected close to 1.4 billion resulting in the loss of between 151,700 and 575,400 lives.

West African Ebola epidemic (2014-2016)ravaged West Africa with 28,600 reported cases and 11,325 deaths while  the virus had its origin in bats.

Zika Virus epidemic (2015-present day) with the virus being spread through mosquitoes and also sexually transmitted. Meanwhile, the impact of the Zika epidemic in South America and Central America is yet to be ascertained. It is known that the type of mosquitoes that transmit Zika flourish in warm, humid climates .

It is apparent from the above that global pandemics or local epidemics have been regular occurrences with man while with civilization and technological advancement, man has not been able to rise over and above viral attacks.

Nigeria needs N120 billion to tackle corona virus

For a country that has very poor health care system, N120 billion would be a drop in the ocean to fix this important sector of service delivery. One should realize that tackling corona virus is part of the infectious diseases unit of the health care and as such must be developed. Furthermore, one is not proud of the health care at primary and tertiary levels across the various tiers of governance, local, state and federal levels. If all our teaching hospitals are in shambles in the face of advances in health technology and health care delivery systems globally, then no amount is too small to pump into the health sector not to handle pandemics like this but for improved health care deliveries not only for the high and mighty but most importantly, for the average Nigerian.

 Effect on 2020 budget

It stands to reason the 2020 budget will be adversely affected, the effect of which may be difficult to quantify now. I leave that to our economic and financial experts.

Appointment of  a lawyer to head Presidential task force on corona virus

The head of a task force is expected to coordinate the activities based on the report and advice of experts and professionals who are members. As long as s/he is competent and is guided by the advice of the experts, I don’t see anything wrong in that. So far, I can say that the current head of the Presidential task force has lived up to expectation based on the  competence he has demonstrated at the daily briefing. That’s my honest opinion unless am confronted with a more  superior argument.

 Way forward for Nigerians

Nature, how adverse it may be, has a way of bringing desired positive changes and developments in human life for people who want to learn and take advantages of whatever situation they find themselves. A cursory look at history, even where disasters and pandemic had occurred, man had come out better in developing and bringing about desired improvements politically, industrially, in health care delivery systems and urban development. This is for a society that is willing to learn and to move forward putting selfish interests aside.

From my personal perspectives, the way forward is itemized as follows :

Restructuring  of our governing structure: COVID-19 pandemic has not been with the same Intensity in all the states, thank God . Each State Governor was saddled with the responsibility of being in charge with minimal interference from the Centre apart from directives for lockdown by Mr. President. Even then, each State is implementing policies that best suit the environment and the people.

A critical evaluation of our health care delivery system  and other critical sectors such as infrastructure, education and environment. There is a need for in-depth study of these sectors and come up with strategies at revamping and modernization with currently available frontline technologies. It is amazing to note and read that most of our rulers are ignorant of the state of our hospitals and the entire health sector until the arrival of  COVID-19. Yet, all of them did not drop from the sky.  What a shame !! There must be a strategic plan on short, medium and long term with financial implications and sources of the funds. Failure to do this, Nigerians will merely be existing and not living in a 21st century knowledge economy with the attendant global competitions.

Everyone to himself, and God for us all:  One of the lessons I have learnt in life and as equally underscored by the ongoing pandemic is that self preservation is the first law of nature and survival. All the global leaders concentrated and diverted all their resources at minimizing the effects of the pandemic to save the lives of their people. No transfer of technologies or resources to first  save lives outside their countries. China came to the rescue of other countries after ensuring that the spread had been put under control. Can Nigerians, both rulers (leaders?) and those of us they are ruling over ever learn a lesson or two from this perspective. Nigeria has become a beggar nation and economically enslaved to our creditors to the extent that we cannot resources, men, materials/ facilities and financial resources in a time of a global disaster would be made to face the challenges alone. President Trump and some other world leaders were able to call on the relevant industrial sectors like a motor company to convert their lines for the manufacture of ventilators before seeking external assistance. With a population of 180-200 million, our President could not order a single manufacturing company to commence local production of ventilators which even before the pandemic was grossly inadequate to meet the needs of our teaching hospitals not to talk of the general hospitals. Giant of Africa indeed !!!

Advice to  government

My advice to governments is that government should be prepared for the next wave of the pandemic as judged from previous ones earlier mentioned. Let governments all over the world study the prophesies of Nostradamus and seek the face of the Lord, ask for mercy and be prepared.

The lesson from COVID-19 is that death is a leveler whether young, old, poor, rich, powerful or noble. What matters most in life are the legacies one lives behind as a political office holder. It is high time our policy makers, members of the judiciary, legislature,  and executive arms of government give honour is due by ensuring that the various professionals are provided with the enabling environment to perform optimally to improve on our level of self-sufficiency in all aspects of human existence.

 

About Editor Charles

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