How Nigeria beat Bill Gates COVID-19 predictions: Aregbesola

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By Yahaya Isah

Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, said Nigeria overcame the grim prediction of Bill Gates and other experts that it would collapse under the damaging economic effects of COVID-19.

The minister spoke at the Third Annual Lecture of the Faculty of Arts, Ekiti University, Ado Ekiti.

The lecture was titled, COVID-19: “The Economy and Security”.

Aregbesola stated that the enforcement of non-pharmaceutical policies of lockdown, isolation, stopping inter-state movements, maintaining social distance, wearing of face-masks and aggressive public enlightenment, proved to be effective in significantly halting the spread of the disease.

“The pandemic hit us but the government was able to mitigate the consequences.

“It also brought out the capacity of Nigerians for resilience in the face of adversity, and human kindness in the way a lot of our compatriots demonstrated generosity to the less privileged in our midst.

“The Federal Government empanelled the Presidential Task Force which immediately swung into action, coordinating with the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Ministry of Health, to respond positively to the occasion, including holding daily national televised briefing.”

The minister noted that the fatalities recorded, though much regretted, could have been worse, in the light of projections by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as the World Health Organisation (WHO) that Nigeria, among some other developing countries, would suffer heavy casualties from the disease.

He said that Bill Gates was later reported to have heaved a sigh of relief that his prediction of mass casualties was wrong.

He, however, commended the scientists and others in the health sector for properly managing the pandemic and also developing a vaccine in record time to assist humanity.

Aregbesola urged Nigerians to go out en masse to be vaccinated at the various vaccination centres across the country.

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On the economy, the minister applauded the efforts of the Private Sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) for the tremendous work done to assist the government and Nigerians in militating against the effect of the Pandemic.

He also recalled that in April 2020, the Federal Government commenced the transfer of N20,000 to poor and vulnerable households registered in the National Social Register (NSR).

“The NSR was increased from 2.6 million households about 11 million people to 3.6 million households during the COVID-19 crisis.

“In the same month, the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs Disaster Management and Social Development began the provision of food rations to vulnerable households in the four states put under lockdown.“

He further stated that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), taking proactive measures, pledged to pump N1.1 trillion into critical sectors of the economy.

“The Federal Government commenced a three-month repayment moratorium on all TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni loans.

“These beneficiaries could not have been in good positions to repay the interest-free loans they collected when the economy was being shut down and the streets empty.“

Aregbesola, however, explained that as a result of the government’s stimulus package, 1.3 million jobs were saved while close to one million new jobs were created through the Economic Sustainability Plan anchored by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

Earlier, the Vice-Chancellor of the institution, Prof. Edward Olanikeku, commended the minister for honouring the invitation of the school.

He advised students, members of staff, and all Nigerians to keep to the COVID- 19 protocols by taking the vaccine and the constant use of facemasks and other non-pharmaceutical measures.

Also, the Chairman of the occasion, the Speaker of Ekiti State House of Assembly, Funminiyi Afuye, noted that COVID-19 has a negative effect on the economy of the country and national security.

This, he said, was occasioned by some hoodlums who vandalized public and private properties under the EndSARS protest shortly after the lockdown was eased.