The robust collaboration between the Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Works and the State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) that led to the recent visit of the latter to the site of the ongoing construction of a-300 bed space capacity Isolation Centre in Uruan Local Government Area certainly brought many matters to the fore about the project.
Led by the State Commissioner for Works, Mr. Ephraim Inyangeyen, the sight-seeing tour of the project which took place recently had on entourage selected journalists from national and state-based Newspapers, which also included reputable bloggers.
Considering the importance and role of the media in any developmental engagements, this official decision to let the journalists form part of the progression of the project was most strategic as it pinpoints to the way Governor Udom Emmanuel collaborates effectively with critical players.
Sharing the same premises with the General Hospital in Ituk Mbang, Uruan Local Government Area, the Isolation Centre has been initiated by Governor Udom Emmanuel in response to the needs and necessities of the Corona Virus pandemic that had since had inroads into the State. The project is a complement to other of such projects already built by the State Government or that have been massively upgraded to meet the challenges of the moments.
The site was a beehive of activities.
That work on the site began in the second week of April 2020 must have made it easier for all to believe when our guide inform us that labourers have been working on site day and night. To sustain the tempo of commitment, the about 400 skilled workers are said to be paid handsomely in commensurate response to the terms and conditions that will ensure that deadlines are met.
Mr. Inyangeyen had taken time out to provide related details to the design and components of the project.
According to him, the project which sits on a 240sqm area was designed to meet the health needs of the moment and that of the future; but its upgrade was particularly predicated on the challenges that the COVID 19 threw at the State, which needed practical solutions.
Other components of the structure include 200 room isolation (general ward); 100 room isolation (VIP Ward); main hall; a laboratory; a canteen; car park; administrative offices and doctors’ quarters; and a 150KVA soundproof generator. It was explained that government decided to put up a permanent structure that will not only stand the taste of time but all match environmental and climatic factors.
This was instructive because in some states in the federation, we have heard of how tents used in the construction of temporary structures for isolation centres have been blown away and left patients stranded.
Again, during a recent media chat, Governor Udom Emmanuel had explained that his choice to undertake a permanent structure for the isolation was largely informed by a possibility waste of resources that might result should a temporary one be blown away, the risk patients may be exposed to, and the high cost of securing such a marguee canopy that is even so hard to come by in the present circumstances.
He further disclosed that he was inspired to build the isolation centre when the Coalition Against COVID 19 promised to support the state government with 100 beds and equipment for the fight against COVID 19. He said one of the conditions the organization gave was that the bed stand equipment to be donated must be fixed at a permanent place and not in a temporary setting.
In the concise words of the governor who hinted of his wish to replicate same across other senatorial districts as the need might arise:
“To put a COVID 19 patient in a temporary tent used as an isolation and treatment centre under the kind of weather we have here, tell me whether you as a person or Governor will love to be in those temporary tent when it rains or under a poor weather condition. So, why will I as a Governor put other people in a place I will not like to stay myself if situation arises? I understood that I can do something better”. So what the governor does is to prevent regrets and wastes that might occur.
Giving further on-the-site assessment, the Commissioner for Works also gave confidence that the Ministry of Works has the qualified personnel and functional machinery to handle the work according to international best standard. He therefore solicited the support of all towards the success of the project than needless criticism and assumptions that do not hold water.
Inyangeyen however commended the governor for his sustained show of interest to undertake the project even at times it was quite hard to raise funds for undertakings of such magnitude. He then said deadlines for the delivery of certain sections and the entire project shall be met and the Governor called for official inauguration within schedule. “It is our decision to work day and night to deliver as planned. Everything needed to complete this project is on ground. The Governor should be back in few days time to receive the project and declare it open for public use”.
The Works boss was not alone in commending the bold and practical steps taken by the governor. On visiting the project on April 27, 2020, the Speaker, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Aniekan Bassey, had poured encomiums and appreciated the governor’s foresight in spite of the times. Indigenes of the area could not also hold their own measure of gratitude for the governor’s large-heartedness in choosing their domain for the isolation centre.
This may be most outstanding for the fact that the new project is emerging on the foundation of the parent General Hospital at Ituk Mbang, that has served the people for years, Therefore the addition of the isolation centre is an added advantage.
After COVID, this health facility shall not be removed, but shall continue to provide healthcare services not just to the people of the immediate locale, but as the Governor once hinted, a first point of call for infectious diseases. There is therefore the need for all to support the idea than run it down for any reason that is outside logic and collective interest of the people.
That was exactly the parting appeal by the Akwa Ibom State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Comrade Amos Etuk, at the end of the visit. Thanking the Governor for foresight and commitment in this relation, Mr. Etuk had said the response by the Governor was an example of purposeful and visionary leadership.
Edet Okpo, an Uyo-based Journalist is a public Affairs Analyst and Commentator