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Covid-19: Thanklessness of Journalism Thrown Bare

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By David-Chyddy Eleke

Many times over, journalism has been described as a thankless profession. The description has often come from practitioners, who may be speaking out of experience.

I have often disagreed with that belief, but as time goes by, I am constantly nudged to the truth in that assertion.

The stay-at-home declared by government as a way to beat the Covid-19 pandemic has further taken away doubts that I may have in my mind about the above assertion.

Society expects far too much from journalists, but give her very little chance to accomplish (even without enquiring after her welfare). If there is poor governance in the society, journalists are looked upon to ginger the government up. If there is corruption in the society, journalists are looked upon to unearth such practices and hold perpetuators to account. If there is insecurity in the country, journalists are seen not to have thoroughly held the security agencies to task. That is why most times, one will hear people say – if Nigerian journalists were up and doing, things will not be this way.

The government will always run to journalists to help burnish their image. The opposition will run to journalists to help them hold government to task. The civil servant who is owed salaries will call journalists to a press briefing and call government all sorts of names. Even market women will run to journalists to complain about the payment of numerous toll tickets. But pray, who do journalists run to when they encounter their own challenges?

The journalists from whom so much is expected, are not insulated from the society? They have their own challenges. They are owed salaries too, and treated shabbily by society. To whom should they run when they encounter their own troubles?

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There is a robbery somewhere, and the journalist appears in the scene after the incidence and starts asking questions. By-standers refuse to volunteer information. They are like – Na for my mouth you want hear say motor get four tires abi? But once home, they tune to their radio or TV to hear the authentic news of the robbery.

Journalists are among the essential duties providers in the recent lockdown order of the president, because of Covid-19. What this means is that even though there is lockdown, journalists will continue to work. In Anambra where I operate, after a partial lockdown of two weeks, in which journalists continued to operate, the state governor, Chief Willie Obiano declared another two weeks of total lockdown, with aggressive enforcement by security agencies.

The total lockdown is still in place as I write. Markets are shut, commuters are stopped from operating, and even some essential duty providers are banned. It has remained a hard period, but journalists are among those to keep operating.

To cushion the effect of the harshness that will follow the stay at home order, wealthy individuals began aggressive donations to the ‘poor’. Well to do individuals donated food to people in their communities. Political parties donated to their members. Churches donated to their members. Government provided food to those considered to be the poor, but no one considered journalists. The only donations received by journalists in Anambra were from the state police Command, who donated tags to journalists to help them move freely within the period (this was after many of us were molested by security agencies, while doing our work), and I dare ask – are journalists considered rich, and have no use for the donation of food items?

Within this period of donations, journalists go round to cover donors and distribution of the items donated, risking their lives. Many times within the lockdown period, I have been called up to come and cover the donation of millions of naira to the Anambra State Covid-19 account. By going to do that job, I am risking my life and those of my family members, who I will always return to after such coverage. But does anyone ask how the journalists who go out to cover such events fare? Of course, no one does. Everyone expects to read quality reports in the media everyday, but how the journalists source them, or the risk taken to source such information do not matter. After all, no be their jobs them dey do? We force them to become journalists?

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Everywhere in the country, donations are flying in billions, to the extents that federal government acknowledged that some emergency philanthropists were using the opportunity to shine. But, does it matter, so long as they help the poor to stay alive?

Everywhere I have searched, I haven’t found in the media where journalists were donated any form of relief materials. Not from state governments, not from the federal government, not from NGOs, not from wealthy individuals, not even from their media organisations, but we are everywhere reporting new cases of Covid-19, discharged cases, and even relief materials donated to others by public spirited individuals.

Let us not pretend that the journalists are not among the poor in the society because it is not true. Have we not heard that some journalists (freelancers) are simply handed ID cards and told that it is equivalent to meal tickets? Do you think such journalists do not contribute meaningfully to the information dissemination chain? Of course, many freelance journalists are the best hands ever.

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Okay, now that the lockdown has kept everyone at home, but the journalist is expected to be at work, most now work from their homes (thank God for technology). Most of the news stories we read everyday to keep abreast with happenings in the country are simple press releases, sent to journalists. Some are telephone interviews conducted by them, and most others are video conferencing, live social media broadcast among others. But in very necessary cases, the journalists leave their homes to get stories first hand.

At times like this, who has considered what the fate of journalists who get ID cards as meal tickets are. As I write, not any news organisation that I know has shared even a cup of rice to their staff to help cushion the effect of COVID-19 on their staffers. But daily, their news materials are expected in their newsrooms, for the day’s publication.

If health service providers have been dubbed as those in the forefront of the battle against Covid-19, and worthy of hazard allowance, who from who should journalists collect their own hazard allowance, since they too are equally in the forefront of the war against the pandemic?

No good pay, no insurance package, no hazard allowance, just a pass (tag) to take a journalist through the many checkpoints on the road, and perhaps, a mouthy title of fourth estate of the realm, journalists must be exceptional miracle workers to have fared the much they have.

But, when our miracles fail, the public must acknowledge that we are humans, with our own difficulties, and needs to fulfill, therefore, the burden on our shoulders should be lessened a little, so the journalist doesn’t get blamed for everything that goes wrong in the country

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Health

Zulum launches 71 ambulances, drugs for Borno’s ‘pilot health centres’

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Governor Babagana Umara Zulum of Borno State on Wednesday flagged off the distribution 71 ambulances and drugs worth 80 million naira to 71 health centres identified for a pilot programme that aim to increase access to public medical services.

Launching the distribution at the State’s medical store in Maiduguri, Zulum noted that a many women were having difficulties in getting access to drugs and healthcare facilities during delivery.

“This administration is determined to provide free drugs to the less privileged women in our society.

The Governor said his administration will ensure quality healthcare service delivery, particularly to the less privileged in the society.

“Quality healthcare delivery is one of the objectives of this administration, it contained in our ten pact agenda. I have made a promise during electioneering campaign that we shall make free maternal drugs available to the less privileged.” Zulum said.

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He added “It is our duty to reduce maternal mortality rate in the State. There are thousands of women visiting hospitals for antenatal services but cannot afford to buy the delivery kit. To address this, I have directed as from today, free maternal drugs should be provided to all our antenatal patients in about 71 pilot health centres in different locations of the State.”

The Governor said the Hospital Management Board shall forward to his office detailed sustainability plans, and ensure that the scheme is captured in 2021 budget.

“I am worried of the sustainability of this program, therefore, the Hospital Management Board should roll out a template on how we can sustain this program, and forward it to my office.”

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“You should also ensure that this scheme is captured in our 2021 budget, a provision of not less than one billion naira should be made. This is what i want to see happening in my lifetime as a Governor of Borno State.”

“I have recently approved the recruitment of over 500 health personnel. You should ensure that every health facility gets nothing less than two doctors. The major facilities should have at least four doctors.” Zulum said.

He however warned that the facilities distributed should be handled appropriately by the management of various health centres.

“These ambulances has to be maintained well. The PMO shall be held responsible for any maladministration of the ambulances.” Zulum warned.

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Responding, the Commissioner of health, Dr. Salisu Kwayabura explained that about 71 health facilities will benefit from the scheme, each will get hundreds of cartons of hospital consumables and equipments.

Acording to the Commissioner, 16 Hiace ambulances, and 33 tricycle ambulances were also distributed to the health centers to ease transportation, so also strengthen referrals.

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Health

Kogi State Government To Engaged More 700 Health Professionals To Sustain Its Health Coverage In The State

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Kogi state Government has expressed its readiness to recruit additional seven hundred health professionals to help to sustain its health coverage in the state .

Commissioner of health , Doctor Saka Audu made the disclosure while flagging off of ‘Nursing Now Campaign in Lokoja,the state capital.

He also announced the establishment of committee tagged “inter professionals Association committee ‘to resolve disputes among various Heath bodies in the state.

Doctor Saka noted that the crisis rocking health bodies if not amiably settled would affect Government’s effort to deliver effective and efficient health services to the populace .

He described the nursing profession as unique and Noble as their services to humanity cannot be equantify

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Doctor Saka said Government was working out modalities to resolve the disputes that led to the close down of the Federal medical center Lokoja.

In a message on the occasion, the Speaker of kogi State House of assembly, Right honourable Mathew Kolawole assured that the house would collaborate with the ministry by making law that will help to weed out quack practitioners in the state.

The speaker who was represented by the Chairman house committee on health and member representing Lokoja one constituency, Alhaji Isah Tenimu commended nursing for their efforts to safe lives of the citizens.

In a keynote address, the state Director of Nursing Mrs Martina Oguche said this year celebration is focusing on five critical areas which are, ensuring nurses and midwives have prominent voice in health policy making, recruiting more nurses into leadership positions, conducting research that help determine where Nurses can have the greatest impact.

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Various Goodwill messages came from the state head of civil service Mrs Deborah Ogunmola,The executive Chairman of primary healthcare agency, Doctor Abubakir Yakubu, and Acting Director of Nursing services, hospitals management board, Mrs, MB Olorunnyomi among others.

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Health

Nigeria Senate Kick Against Foreign Methods Of Fighting COVID-19, Rejects N75,000 Test Fee For Int’l Flight

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The Senate has cautioned relevant stakeholders in the health sector against killing the nation’s economy by adopting foreign methods of fighting COVID-19 pandemic.

Senate’s admonition against imported measures of fighting COVID-19 came from the co-chairman of the Senate Joint Committee on Health and Aviation, Senator Smart Adeyemi (APC, Kogi West), during an interactive session with stakeholders in the Aviation and Health sectors on safety measures put in place in the wake of the resumption of international and domestic flights in the country.

Senator Adeyemi, who chairs the Senate Aviation Committee, said although based on realities on ground, COVID-19 was real but not potent in Nigeria and many other African countries.

Sen Smart Adeyemi, APC, Kogi West.

According to him, based on that reality, it was wrong for relevant authorities in the country to be swallowing hook, line and sinker, measures being adopted to fight the disease in Europe, Americas, China and other advanced countries of the world.”There is something in us as Africans that is not in them in Europe and America, which made COVID-19 not to be disastrous here as it was there.

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“In the light of this, measures that are detrimental to the livelihood and well-being of Nigerians should be avoided, so as not to kill the nation’s economy.

“People are not finding things easy outside there as a result of the way and manner COVID-19 pandemic is being fought in the country and as representatives of the people, feelers reaching us indicate revolt against government in December if drastic actions are not taken between now and then to make things easier” Adeyemi warned.
For his part, chairman of the Joint Committee, Senator Yahaya Oloriegbe (APC, Kwara Central), specifically faulted the policy adopted by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, which allows only private laboratories to carry out tests on intending travelers abroad at the cost of N75,000.

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The measure according to him, is detrimental to average Nigerians who are being forced to cough out N75,000 for the test, which he described as unacceptable.

“The amount is too high, it should be brought down and public health Institutions laboratories should be equipped to carry out the tests”, Oloriegbe said.

Also, Senator Biodun Olujimi (PDP, Ekiti South), took up both the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire and coordinator of PTF, Dr. Sani Aliyu, who were both present, on the usefulness or otherwise of facemasks in Nigeria against the backdrop that some don’t comply with the directive and are free from COVID-19.

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She said based on what she saw in many communities in Ekiti State last week, residents have jettisoned its usage of facemasks.
Responding, Dr. Aliyu said the three reasons of standard of living, demography and aggressive nature of African countries were identified to defy coronavirus.

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