The Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, has described as outstanding and courageous, the excellence and professionalism so far demonstrated by Nigerian medical doctors, nurses and other health workers in managing the Coronavirus pandemic since the case was reported in the country.
The NUJ position was contained in a press statement issued by its National President, Chris Isiguzo.
He said, “The Union is indeed proud of what our home grown medical practitioners and health workers have achieved so far in the fight against this pandemic, in spite of poor facilities, hostile working environments and frustrating conditions of service.”
The Union said that with very low mortality rate, increasing number of discharged persons and effective management of positive patients, the country’s medical professionals had shown that they can compete favourably with the best in the world if given the opportunity and accorded the required recognition.
The Union, therefore, called on the federal and state governments to consider adequate remuneration for health workers in the line of duty.
The Union advised the federal and state governments, the private sector at all levels that “the time to invest in the health sector is now.”
“The obvious impact of this rampaging pandemic has made it more imperative for our hospitals to become more functional considering that everybody no matter how highly or lowly placed has now been circumstantially compelled to patronize our local hospitals,” the union observed.
The NUJ then welcomed with high expectations, the measures so far taken by the federal government to manage the crisis, adding that it commends “the professionalism shown by the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu in particular and the SGF-led Presidential TasK Force on COVID 19.”
The NUJ identified the daily media briefing by the Task Force, interface with various state governments as important steps that have helped information dessemination, public education and enlightenment.
“It has also helped to draw national attention to the dangers that lie ahead, the responsibilities of all Nigerians and the need for unity of purpose to defeat the pandemic,” NUJ explained.
The Union commended its members, health reporters and correspondents and the Nigerian media generally for the on-going aggressive campaign through various news and programs on the dangers of the virus.
“We also once more call on authorities and owners of media establishments to do everything possible to equip their reporters and provide palliatives for journalists across the country so as to reduce the risk faced at this critical time.
“For debtor media houses, the Union reiterates that it will not continue to stand idly while journalists who work round the clock are owed several months arrears of salaries. Since its strategic engagements appear not to be yielding results as expected, the Union in the coming weeks may be forced to resort to either picketing of such media houses or take legal actions,” the statement advised.
The NUJ said it viewed as disappointing and careless some decisions and actions of some state governors which if not checked are capable of undermining the restrictions and social distancing directives put in place for overall public safety.
NUJ observed, “Relaxing the lockdown order in some states for the commemoration of the Easter celebration was a dangerous gamble and the affected states are advised to avoid such errors in future. Governors of states where cases have been recorded but are still yet to order a lockdown are advised to do so as it remains better to err on the side of caution.”
The Union advised politicians from all political parties to stop forthwith from playing politics with a deadly global health challenge such as the coronavirus pandemic that constitutes a matter of life and death.
“Politicians are urged to watch closely and learn from what is happening all over the world, where politics has taken a back seat in all countries including the USA that has a general election this year,” it noted.
The NUJ applauded some affluent Nigerians, religious organisations, NGOs, development partners, the public and private sectors that have donated funds to support the COVID-19 fight and calls on others within and outside the country to emulate the gesture.
“As a result of experiences in the past in Nigeria, the NUJ wishes to put all on notice, that the Union as watch dog of the society is set to raise at the background, high profile investigative reporters drawn from the print, electronic and social media to track, monitor very closely every income and expenditure of all funds raised for the purposes of managing the COVID-19.
“Our scope of coverage will cover all tiers and levels of government. It must be made clear that the NUJ will hold accountable all those saddled with the responsibility of handling public funds during this period,” NUJ explained.
While calling for more sustained palliatives for the poor and hungry in society, efficient distribution to all parts of the country, the Union appealed to all citizens to give their full cooperation to all lawful orders to curb the spread of this virus.