By Francis Nwosu
When the earliest Coronavirus (COVID-19) case was detected on November 17, 2019, in Hubei Province, Wuhan, China, little did the world know that it would be declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
This was after Chinese authorities had tried to cover it up by muzzling the country’s scientific community that had warned of the virus’ deadliness.
In Nigeria, hearts were in mouths as the Federal Ministry of Health announced Nigeria’s index case on February 27, 2020. He was an Italian that flew in from Milan for a business meeting. Since then, the number of confirmed Nigerian infections has risen to 442 as of April 16. There have been 152 recoveries and 13 deaths.
Like some citizens and residents in the West, several Nigerians were also sceptical about the disease. They dismissed it as a hoax, but events have proved otherwise. Sadly, the initial scepticism has proved to be a massive drawback to government’s effort to combat the virus early.
Of course, pandemics have precedence in human history. There was the Flu pandemic of 1889 to 1890 that killed 1 million people; Spanish Flu (1918-1920), and Asian Flu (1957-1958) that had about 500 million cases with one-fifth of those killed. The H1N1 Swine Flu pandemic recorded 1.4 billion cases and killed between 151,700 and 575,400 people.
Ironically, the trajectory of such pandemics and epidemics, including Ebola is that they have a similar path in Nigeria. The first case was in Lagos, then Ogun and Ibadan before it spread to other Nigerian communities and states.
Nonetheless, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed our tardy response to emergencies. It has similarly exposed our grossly inadequate health, humanitarian, security, educational, labour, governance and fiscal arrangements. These gaps require that more proactive and urgent actions need to be taken to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
Apart from scaling up the medical intervention, strategic communications and reputation management experts are needed at this point in time to reassure citizens and get their backing for government efforts to defeat the disease.
People need to be well informed of the various measures to break the virus’ transmission cycle, including physical/social distancing, restriction of movement, and the necessity of maintaining thorough personal hygiene.
They need to be educated about why they need to comply with these directives, and understand the weightier benefit of staying at home instead of hopping about ‘for their daily livelihood.’
Strategic public relations actions leveraging community influencers and local dialects should be deployed by state and local governments for community engagement with the people at the grassroots.
Using relatable cultural communication at a time like this will foster people’s awareness of the pandemic and the systems authorities are putting in place to mitigate further spread.
Despite government efforts to curb COVID-19, as well as donations of cash, relief materials and volunteer service from well-meaning Nigerians and institutions, the challenges of stopping this disease are enormous.
Thus far, these efforts seem like a drop in the ocean. And this is not to discredit these interventions but, anecdotal evidence nationwide show negligence and partisanship in the distribution of relief materials. Trust gap is also widening.
So, the onus, now, is on government to swiftly onboard relevant professional bodies to drive strategic communications, behavioural change and strong advocacy to deepen the current response to COVID-19 in a more seamless and coordinated manner.
Engagement of PR consultants will go a long way to drive tactful messaging content that will appeal to targets and help to manage their expectations. Experts in marketing communication and information management, more than ever, need to be drawn in to help up the ante.
They should become the advisory ombudsman amongst various interest groups and institutions to strengthen collaborations that will accelerate the efforts to defeat Coronavirus.
With effective communication and enlightenment, the public will become more enlightened about COVID-19. All the nonsensical myths that the virus cannot survive in a hot region or is a conspiracy of the West to use 5G technology to destroy the world will stop.
The deployment of well-articulated and strategic communications will ensure effective risk mitigation communication, control of misinformation and eradication of ignorance. It will also reveal the antics of mischief peddlers masking as community voices in their circle of influence.
The importance of strategic communications notably PR, cannot be exhausted in just one breathe. The time is now to drive an articulate messaging on relief efforts by government agencies. It will additionally ensure that people are knowledgeable about all the issues about management of the challenges posed by the virus.
As the whole world strengthens commitments to end Coronavirus so it does not ruin humankind, Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind with tardy communication and poor planning.
Nwosu is an Associate Analyst, Content and Creative, with Chain Reactions Nigeria.
CBN Pulls Rate Cut Trigger, King Dollar Returns
By Lukman Otunuga, Senior Research Analyst at FXTM,
In a move that caught investors off-guard this week, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) slashed interest rates by 100 basis points bringing the MPR to 11.5%. Given how inflation has been above target since 2015, rates were expected to remain unchanged for the rest of 2020 and possibly early 2021.
The question on the mind of many is whether the rate cut will achieve the desired effect by stimulating consumption and economic growth? Ongoing border closures and disruptions created by COVID-19 have pushed inflation to levels not seen since March 2018 above 13.20% while a drop in the production and price of Oil continues to rub salt into the wound. While looser monetary policy could support growth, it may come at the cost of rising inflation and weaker Naira.
Over the past few months, central banks across the globe have deployed unprecedented measures to defend their respective economies against the coronavirus menace. However, fiscal policy has been identified as the sharper tool with governments across the world providing a critical lifeline to keep the wheels of their respective economies rolling.
Outside of Nigeria, King Dollar made a return by appreciating against every single G10 currency. In times of uncertainty, everyone wants a juicy piece of the world’s most liquid currency. As coronavirus cases rise in Europe and other parts of the world, the flight to safety is likely to boost appetite for the Dollar. This is bad news for many emerging markets currencies, especially those with high Dollar-denominated debt.
On the commodity side, Oil prices remain heavily influenced by demand-side factors and the state of the global economy. Prices are likely to remain stuck around the $40 regions in the near term, especially If another round of possible lockdowns hit Oil demand. Looking at the technicals, WTI Crude is under pressure on the daily charts. If prices are unable to break away from the sticky $40 regions, the next key point of interest remains around $38. A weekly close above $41.50 could pave a path towards $43.
NCC Arrests Man for Hacking into DSTV System
Nigeria Copyright Commission (NCC), has arrested one Mr Aliu Olalekan, for allegedly hacking into DSTV system and watching the channels free without subscription.
Mr Matthew Ojo, NCC Director in the Lagos Directorate Office said this while speaking with newsmen in Lagos, on Tuesday.
He said that the suspect used to watch DSTV channels free without subscription on his Android phone via an app which he downloaded on google play store.
“This suspect distributed the know-how to his telegram followers and on his blog with the aim of gaining more followers and viewership on his blog and makes more money through google ad-sense.
“The operation was based on surveillance which had earlier been carried out by the Multi-choice team and verified by a copyright inspector, ” he said.
He added that the arrest was made in collaboration with a team of copyright inspectors led by the Head of Enforcement Department, Mr Charles Amudipe.
Others included; a team from Multichoice Nigeria led by Mr Umar Ibrahim and policemen from Lagos Command Headquarters, Ikeja.
Ojo said that the joint team conducted an anti-piracy operation at the premises of the culprit in Amukoko, Lagos.
According to him, the suspect was contacted on phone by a member of the operation team on the disguise of patronising him. “The suspect came out to meet the caller and in the process of discussion, he was apprehended.
“The suspect took the team to his resident. The squad paraded his one-room apartment and recovered his laptop and phones used in perpetrating the ungodly act. “He was arrested and brought to the copyright commission office for further investigation, ” he said.
Ojo said that, on getting to the commission’s office, the statement of the suspect was taken and the inventory of items seized from him taken. He said that investigation on the matter was still ongoing and if found guilty the suspect will be charged to court.
NCC, Digital Encode Support NITRA Innovative Tech Forum On Post-COVID-19 Strategies
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigeria’s telecommunications regulator and Digital Encode, Cybersecurity and Compliance advisory company, have indicated interest to partner with the Nigeria Information Technology Reporters Association (NITRA), the national umbrella body of ICT reporters, as it organizes a forum that will x-ray the industry’s future plans for ICT growth post pandemic era.
The event, slated to hold on October 15, 2020, will seek to discuss the needs for a fortified ICT sector after the COVID-19 era, and the level of preparedness of ICT stakeholders to embrace the challenge of being pivotal to the stability and growth of all other sectors.
A statement from NITRA National Secretariat in Lagos indicates that due to the pandemic and need to observe the COVID-19 protocol on social distancing, the event will be held via a Webinar.
This year’s theme, “Multi-stakeholder Approach To National Recovery Post-Pandemic”, is in line with the annual event’s generic theme, ‘NITRA Innovative Tech Forum’, a contribution by NITRA to the development of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) innovations and policies in Nigeria.
Prof. Umar Danbatta, executive vice chairman, NCC is expected to deliver the keynote speech at the event and will throw more light on Federal Government’s plans, programmes and policies on post-pandemic strategies using ICT.
Dr. Adewale Obadare and Dr. Seyi Akindeinde, founders of Digital Encode, while accepting to support the event expressed their readiness to offer their expertise in Cybersecurity for organisations to prepare against cyber- attacks with the new normal.
They will also highlight areas that are high risks that need fortification in terms of cybersecurity.
Speaking on the event, Mr. Chike Onwuegbuchi, national chairman, NITRA, noted that as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to leave its negative trails across the globe, economic reboot for countries will not only depend on how well they readapt to the new normal, but also more on their recovery plans.
According to him: “While the federal government has consistently expressed its willingness to set all policies in place to engender growth, and accelerated implementation of these policies, private sector firms have also shown great hunger for the task ahead in post-COVID-19 era.
However, the question that needs to be answered is whether all stakeholders are ready for the required task ahead.”
The event will also offer participating companies opportunities to publicize some of their individual efforts at contributing to reacting a soft landing or lifeline for SMEs and other ancillary companies as the pandemic threatens their survival.
Digital Encode is a multi-award winning and leading consulting and integration firm that specializes in the design, management, and security of business-critical networks, telecommunications environments and other Information Technology (IT) infrastructures.
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