By Mike Eboh
The Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, NIPR, yesterday, faulted the Federal Government for accepting the offer of allowing Chinese doctors into the country to assist the country in the fight against the new Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In a statement in Abuja, President/Chairman of the Governing Council of the NIPR, Mr Mukhtar Sirajo, stated that accepting the offer of the Chinese medical professionals without consultation with the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, was capable of hampering the country’s fight against the pandemic and causing friction among the medical practitioners.
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Sirajo, who commended the efforts of the government in the fight against the virus so far, also called for the inclusion of strategic communication specialists among others, in the Presidential Task Force (PTF) against COVID-19, stating that these experts would have helped in preventing the communication challenges that arose from the visit of the Chinese doctors, among other issues.
He said, “Apart from causing possible professional friction in managing the situation, which the nation can ill-afford at this time, information already being circulated, be it fake or real, points to a perceived doubt of the altruism of Chinese involvement in the fight against the pandemic.
“We hasten to add that had strategic communication being deployed, before accepting the Chinese offer, the country might not have been in this somewhat embarrassing situation. In our considered opinion, taking a strategic stakeholder like the NMA Into confidence through regular consultations would have enriched the initiative and provided professional expertise to accommodate the peculiarities of our reality.
“With the WHO commendation of Nigeria’s effective efforts at curbing the pandemic. what our doctors need among others, is some encouragement and a boost at this crucial time and not a move that would seem to demoralise them. Our reputation as a nation and as a people as well as our territorial integrity. is at stake; we must, therefore, guard against mortgaging it for anything.
“To this end, we advise the Federal Government to once more review its position and carefully handle the matter In a way that reassures the citizens of its full understanding of the situation, while at the same time upholding the existing cordial relationship between Nigeria and China.”
Sirajo added that “The relative success so far recorded would have been even greater had certain strategic moves been made to engage other critical stakeholders in constituting the Task Force so that they can avail the nation of their professional expertise in some aspects of handling the situation.
“The medical dimension of the COVID-19 is no doubt, the spindle around which the wheel revolves, but the pandemic is also a crisis of monumental proportions. Strategic crisis communication is therefore also important, as handling the situation requires not only public enlightenment but also the crafting of appropriate messages for it, networking with other stakeholders as well as analysis of pros and cons of measures to be taken as they affect segments of the society.”
The NIPR boss further called on the Federal Government to intensify efforts at providing more testing facilities and distributing same across the nooks and cranny of the country to avoid the potential of people being Infected without knowing.
He said, “Every crisis situation comes with an opportunity that needs to be seized. COVID-19 affords our governments across all tiers, an opportunity for introspection and sober reflection on the state of our healthcare system.
“For once, all Nigerians, irrespective of status. have no choice but to rely on services provided by our facilities at home. We must, therefore, ensure that our healthcare system becomes one of the greatest beneficiaries of this crisis through a systematic upgrade of the infrastructure and ancillary services post COVID-19
“We commiserate with families of those who lost their lives in the pandemic. while we pray that those that have tested positive will recover speedily. We strongly believe that Nigeria will come out of this sooner than we think.
“We advise against distractions at this time. We appeal to the government and those out of it to guard against politicizing any aspect of this very crucial fight for survival while also appealing to all Nigerians to rally round the government as it strives to protect us all.”