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May 5, 20208min370

Ayade looting Covid-19 funds, exposing C’River to virus outbreak, Efik Leaders Write Buhari

Nsime Ekpo, Calabar

In a scathing accusation levelled against Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade, Efik leaders have written a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari accusing the governor of looting Covid-19 funds and exposing the state to likely virus outbreak.

They sought for Federal Government’s intervention so that the state does not become a danger to the nation’s effort to contain the deadly virus.

There’s no reported case of the virus in the state but there have been accusations of no testing so far which could prove dangerous to contain the virus.

The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, has accused the state governor of not conducting test so should not say there’s no coronavirus in the state, a statement the governor has frown at.

But the Efik leaders’ letter to the President signalled dissension between the governor and traditional rulers who have accused Ayade of neglect and lack of consultation.

Writing under the auspices of Efik Leadership Foundation, they said the nation had been treated to a series of bizarre theatrics from Ayade, noting that he had relentlessly made public pronouncements against the directives of the Federal Government and the World Health Organisation on measures to manage the pandemic.

Ayade has been in the news since the outbreak of the virus for the wrong reasons. Most recently he stated it was easy to establish vaccine centre with the funds being received by the Federal Government, adding that face mask was all that was needed to avoid contracting the disease. He came under attacks for it.

The letter was jointly signed by chairman of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees, Richard Duke; Chairman of the good governance committee of the foundation, Timothy Esu; and two other members of the committee, Barbara James and Eyo Ekpo.

In the letter, the elders reechoed popular accusations that Ayade had done little to build and equip laboratories, isolation centres despite N900m withdrawal to combat the deadly virus.

The N900 million was unilaterally withdrawn from the local government’s accounts against extant rules.

Also, the leaders accused the governor of withdrawing another N4.5bn from joint 18 local governments fund to set up new airline amidst coronavirus pandemic.

Accusations have been rife no airline would be set up but it was an avenue to loot the state’s treasury. And they are those who hold opinion that airline business amid the pandemic is not viable why waste such funds especially in a civil service state like cross river, pointing to the success story in Akwa Ibom state owning to increased production and good governance.

Part of the letter reads:

“Mr. President is invited to note that evenafter illegally engineering the withdrawal of N900,000,000.00 (Nine hundred million naira) from the joint funds of the 18 local governments in the state, ostensibly towards COVID-19 intervention actions, the state government has gone on to extract another N4,500,000,000 (four billion, five hundred million naira) from the same joint local government fund for an alleged investment in a state airline, of all things.

“The state Government has done very little to train, equip and deploy health personnel, build and equip healthcare facilities, laboratories and isolation centres in the state, drive home the message about the importance of testing, physical distancing and personal hygiene and generally prepare to contain the disease in the state. Yet, in contrast, the state government has also made a big public relations show of distributing food items among a few communities in the state and locking down the state at its main land border at the Itu Bridge, even as other land and riverine entry points along the state’s borders are very much in use.

“As prove of preparations to contain the disease, citizens are shown pictures of hotel facilities at the Tinapa Resort Hotel that are passed off by the state government as a 116-bed isolation centre. The sad truth, however, is that the only facility with some semblance of an isolation centre is a 4-bed building within the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital Complex. Further more, the State Civil Service Commission very recently published a call for applications of experienced medical personnel to be employed into the state ministry of health. Unfortunately, Cross River is now well-known in Nigerian medical circles as noted in Annex 2, as the state with the lowest paid medical personnel.”

The leaders therefore urged President Buhari to “direct the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the ministry of Health, the National Centre for Disease Control and other relevant agencies to immediately provide support to the state in form of test kits, PPE, ventilators and trained personnel to be delivered to the three federal medical institutions in the state, namely the Navy Reference Hospital Calabar, the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital and the Federal Neuto-Psychiatric Hospital;

“Direct that accordingly test stations are to be established in the said federal institutions and urgently utilized in accordance with proper medical protocols for testing citizens of Cross River State for Covid-19 virus; “Direct that the outcomes of tests to be conducted be used in determining whatever public health measures are necessary to be further undertaken in the state for the detection, containment and prevention of the COVID-19 disease; and “Direct that relevant federal law enforcement, intelligence and military agencies are immediately deployed to reinforece the lockdown at all entry points into the state in aid of efforts to ensure that prayers a to c above are fully and properly executed.”

The latest development would further isolate the governor whose party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, both in the state and center has been having running battle with the governor over his schemes to join the All Progressive Party, an accusation the governor has not refuted.

Ayade has yet to respond to the latest onslaught on his leadership which has increasingly come under inquest for poor service deliveries, lack of performance, project initiation and abandonment, over employment, insecurity and defacing of the state with heaps of refuse.

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