The Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Health, has been strengthening measures to ensure an outbreak in Nigeria is controlled and contained quickly. The multi-sectoral Coronavirus Preparedness Group, led by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), has since activated its national Emergency Operations Centre and will work closely with Lagos State Health authorities to respond to this case and implement firm control measures. “I wish to assure all Nigerians that have we have been beefing up our preparedness capabilities since the first confirmation of cases in China, and we will use all the resources made available by the government to respond to this case. “We have already started working to identify all the contacts of the patient, since he entered Nigeria. Please be reminded that most people who become infected may experience only mild illness and recover easily, but it can be more severe in others, particularly the elderly and persons with other underlying chronic illnesses. All Nigerians should take care of their health and maintain hand and respiratory hygiene to protect themselves and others, including their own families, following the precautions below: 1. Regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water, and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser. 2. Maintain at least 1 & half metres (5 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. 3. Persons with persistent cough or sneezing should stay home or keep a social distance, but not mix in crowd. 4. Make sure you and people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene, meaning cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or into your sleeve at the bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately. 5. Stay home if you feel unwell with symptoms like fever, cough and difficulty in breathing. Please call NCDC toll free number which is available day and night, for guidance- 0800-970000-10. Do not engage in self-medication 6. Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19 through official channels on TV and Radio, including the Lagos State Ministry of Health, NCDC and Federal Ministry of Health. Citizens must not abuse social media and indulge in spreading misinformation that causes fear and panic. The Federal Ministry of Health, through Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, will continue to provide updates and will initiate all measures required to prevent the spread of any outbreak in Nigeria,” announced Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Hon. Minister of Health. As at the time of filing this article, over 9,000 cases have been confirmed in Nigeria, over 3,000 cases have been discharged and about 300 deaths have been recorded in 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory, having carried out 48,544 tests. AKWA IBOM COVID-19 INDEX CASES -Dr Otobong Asuquo, a specialist in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, after recovering from the disease at Ibom Specialty Hospital. As at April 1, 2020, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed 5 cases of the disease in Akwa Ibom State, and Dr Otobong Asuquo, a specialist in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, was one of the cases. Dr Asuquo, in his detailed account after recovering from the disease at Ibom Specialist Hospital in Uyo, said he received a call immediately from the state COVID-19 team to get set that an ambulance would be coming to pick him. Different thoughts went through his mind: his dear wife, children, and when he saw how others in different parts of the world were passing away, he thought his end was near! At the isolation centre, Dr Asuquo said he enjoyed his stay because of the privacy, the modern facilities, and equipment at the hospital. “You don't know what is happening and who is in the next room. Constant water and light, it's like having the U.S. in Akwa Ibom,” he said in a video chat. He added that he was surprised to know that all the rooms there are equipped with Television sets (with DSTV) and that there's free WIFI for browsing the Internet, which made him stay updated and worked on his personal project. Although he was silent on the treatment he received that led to his recovery in less than two weeks, he was thankful to the state government for a job well done. “I want to give kudos to the Akwa Ibom State Government because I know without them, this wouldn't have been possible and also for the [COVID-19] team.” Akwa Ibom State so far has 35 active cases of the disease, with 2 deaths and 14 recoveries of which Dr Asuquo is one of them.
Comrade Amos Etuk is one journalist known in Akwa Ibom State Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists for his humble and unassuming disposition. An ex-Chairman of the Consolidated Chapel of NUJ, and the immediate past State Secretary of the union, Comrade Etuk was on hand recently for a rewarding session of interview with the Creek News Magazine crew where he spoke passionately on his fresh emergence as the State Chairman of the NUJ, his plans and vision for the union and her members in the state and the Niger Delta region at large. Excerpts:
The last election was quite a unique one with new candidates locking horns without an incumbent, for the first time. How did it go?
Thank you, I give God all the glory; this victory is dedicated to God. The election went very smoothly. It was both interesting and challenging. The people spoke through the referendum on the Union, and by that our collective wish has given birth to this leadership. We have learnt lessons from the past. We have also learnt lessons from the outcome of the election, the campaigns and everything. I believe the lessons we have learnt and the ideas we have also gathered and the challenges we have seen through the campaigns, will aid us to work assiduously as a team towards using a team approach in meeting the expectations of our members to the growth of our journalism profession.
Your victory in NUJ in Akwa Ibom State, what does it mean for Akwa Ibom State and Niger Delta region as far as journalism profession in this part of the country is concerned?
Our victory means uniting the union, our victory means uniting Akwa Ibom State, our victory means to offer a new platform in enhancing the synergy between Akwa Ibom State Council of the union, the Akwa Ibom State government and the South-South. Our victory will offer a new template in working a collective approach that will usher in a new narrative in the discharge of our duty as professionals; it will also collectively bring new set timelines for us. Like you said, between the union and Akwa Ibom State there has to be a strong synergy and the media in the state has a critical role in propagating the milestone in constructively advising the government; constructively also we will be very strong gatekeepers towards the discharge of our collective duties. So, I believe that we are starting a new template, a redefinition in leadership that will bring a lot of unity within the union and the state government.
What plans are you having for your co-contestants in the poll that, by the grace of God, you emerged the winner, what plans are you having to possibly bring them on board to be able to build a better and stronger union together?
That is why I said we are using a team work approach template towards enhancing leadership. Everybody that had a stake in the contest is a team player, and we have spoken to each other. We have agreed to work as a family because the union comes first. The Union is bigger than me. the Union will always stand by itself and that is why everybody is needed to come together. We must begin to merge all our ideologies, we must begin to merge all our campaign thoughts, aspirations and ideas towards ensuring that in whatever projections we make for the future, we are going to work together; and I believe that when we share ideas everybody will be able to bring content into leadership and service delivery, and we are going to enhance the core values of the profession, professionalism and also enhance human capacity in development programmes; and also enhance human capacity in development programmes, and also enhance the set target of meeting the expectation of our members and other key areas that we have determined in the course of our campaign. I believe strongly with the family team work approach, we will give everybody a sense of belonging.
Apart from your personal agenda, is there any development you think you will build upon from what your predecessor has started, maybe infrastructure and even projects that were left unfinished?
We have a very huge task right now so what we are going to do right now is to try to consolidate on developing the present structure that we have. It is a big challenge, it is a challenge that we believe we can also meet. We are determined to ensure that at the end of three years we’ll meet all the challenges that we met on ground. It will be foolhardy to begin to embark on a new project at this particular point in time; rather we should try to redefine how we can seek ways to collectively ensure that we work towards creating new ideas and ways we can see that we meet the set target of completing the infrastructure on ground at the Union’s complex. And so it involves a lot of reach out to a lot of organisations and well-wishers to come and be partners with the state council. That is why we are harping on the essence of partnership with various arms of government and organisations including the state government because we need partners, because the Union does not have any form of income. So, generally we will work towards reaching out to so many organisations and use our template of our knowledge to successfully build on the legacies that our founding leaders have left so far for us to come and consolidate.
Now, by way of leadership approach, are there methods you will employ that will differ from what the former administration in the state council was having in order for you to achieve, like you said, this partnership with government and non-governmental organisations to enhance achievement of infrastructural development?
Yes we will reach out to organizations. Very effectively we need their support. We need to talk to them and also to see them and make them see us as strategic partners, because we need that strong recognition. So, we are coming into a template from a very strong point of view that the media must be seen as strategic and strong partners. We are going to work towards building trust because when we have that trust they will be able to partner with us. We have started reaching out to several organizations. Like I said that countdown to the next election year has started. So, we must leave legacies. We expect that by the next one year we will be able to leave very visible landmark in the Union, where our members will know that the overall gain accruing from their collective votes will stand out to become a reality.
The emergence of the so-called new media has posed a serious challenge to the Union lately, talking of quackery and all of that, what is your mission in checking this?
All through the campaign one thing I was happy is that we have a new ground rule in the discharge of our duties. That ground gives each and every one of us the template of being registered members of the Union. Under the immediate past administration where I served as the State Secretary we successfully conducted a verification exercise, which captured about 495 members. This will only be a continuous process, and that process has been painstakingly done not just by the exco of the immediate past administration, but by all chapel chairmen and secretaries who have painstakingly ensured that we have very qualified members. Now we are going to work with that same template in the discharge of our duties at press conferences and other events and also reaching out to government media agencies and administrators that you need to work with professionals who will work with you so that in their reports objectives and the ethics of profession will be upheld. The era of having social media influencers will be drastically reduced under our leadership. Because we are going to write correspondences to all establishments, government agencies so that we can help guide them, so that when this stories come we can begin to chart the cause of enhancing the narrative of reportage towards the society; and that is very strategic. So, that starts from the understanding and partnership between media agencies and the state council; and that’s where we come in that there must be mutual respect between each arm of the government. I also want to encourage social media influencers who have a passion to write we have a platform, a very formal platform at the level of the state council, the International Institute of Journalism. Take advantage in the next one or two years you will be through, and that gives you the minimum qualification of a diploma in journalism. So, when you start from there you should know that the future begins. All of us here that are qualified journalists have painstakingly over the years gone through tertiary education, have come through this process; and so we have an objective to guard in this regard. We will uphold the ethics of journalism. You need a professional and formal training for you to become a journalist, so we will continue to encourage them. Social media today is very influential, so we must look for a way to ensure that people who are interested in the media profession will see ways of being committed in enrolling in the IIJ and at the same time build a wider perspective of the profession.
Close to the end of the last administration of Mr. Udom Emmanuel, the incumbent governor who re-emerged issued a statement cautioning his appointees from issuing authoritative statements to the press, do you think the union can and should interfere?
We want to make an appeal because such directives could hinder the approach, talking about the freedom of information. We are going to work towards addressing the government that it should reconsider the issue. Maybe the restriction was handed down in consideration to the situation at that time. But I think it will be revisited and reconsidered in due course.
The Niger Delta Region has so many challenges especially regarding its ecosystem and generic atmospheric ruin, how is the state council during your administration going to synergize with other state councils and stakeholders in the region to really bring to global awareness over the plight of the people and the place?
At the level of Zone F, the South-South states’ journalists, we have a body and we are united, and I believe that when we come together in our zonal meeting we should be able to collectively share the ideas of our challenges towards the ecosystem and also charge not just the state government but also the multinational companies in order for them to find a way of reaching out to host communities to make good their social responsibilities. If we cannot report that adequately, then I think we will be doing ourselves a huge disservice. So, we’ll try to reach out to all relevant agencies concerned and see how to project those issues and try to protect those communities and our region also from those challenges in the ecosystem.
What is the Union going to do on the issue of welfare in terms of training and enhancing the capacity of members in the discharge of their duties?
Without the welfare the Union there is no commitment. We will not be happy. Without the welfare there will be no zeal towards the course our profession; but I want to give you the best news live ever heard, under the last administration we had successfully adopted the new NUJ welfare policy trust. The welfare policy trust gives everybody seated here as a qualified journalist the opportunity to be a participant, and have a participatory stake in the welfare of the Union. It gives you an identity, it gives you a determinant factor towards the welfare of our Union. So, that means that quality brings us together towards the growth of our Union and welfare is made paramount. I want to assure all of us that we are going to work towards the management of our welfare. For human capacity development, this morning I spoke with some organisations and we going to start the very bold step of ensuring that our members will attend regular courses, workshops, and seminars, and where possible also assist them to attend workshops outside because we need everyone of us to be intellectually developed, and not just within the confines of what we have achieved academically but also to bring back content to leadership, development, welfare of the union and to give everybody a stake as much as possible. So, we are going to have a lot of workshops so that at the end of the day after our tenure is finished we will make sure that those three years in one way or the other we need continuous human capacity development and programmes through various opportunities to attend workshops. This is very vital.
Chairman, there seem to be a number of some kind of pressure groups within the Union these days; for instance one hears of a group of young journalists, middle-aged women journalists, ethnic or LG-based journalists and so on. Are you going to see the development as normal and be comfortable working with them?
Everyone of those people mentioned are journalists and everybody has an interest in the growth of the Union. You have to identify with the interest that will build the growth of the union. But the most important thing is that there is the umbrella body of the Union which is professionally recognised as the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Akwa Ibom State Chapter. We will work as a body and as a Union in the recognition of the purpose of leadership that we have started. So, be rest assured that the NUJ has consistent members.
Chairman, please say your parting words as one who has just come on board the leadership platform of the Akwa Ibom State NUJ as its helmsman, what should the membership expect?
We have just started the first step of leadership, and we need all the support that we can get. We need God’s grace and wisdom to lead; we need the support from every member. One thing about the last election is that it has brought the young and old together, and one of the things we have also said during our campaigns was that we are going to breach the gap in-terms of the elders and the younger generation; and we are going to work on that because it gives us a lot of respect and bring everybody back to the fold. We are going to try and sustain our momentum as much as possible. We cannot do that without all members, so that is why we are coming for a communicative approach in terms of self-delivery and our pride will be the best in the next three years. The expectations are very high, and we will succeed because God is with us when we do the best we can; and we pray for success.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for sparing us your time.
You are welcome! God bless you!