COVID-19: Gov. Ugwuanyi’s Sure Steps To Cushion Harsh Effects, Improve Healthcare

For the entire globe, the challenge of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) has revolved around striking a delicate balance between the economic austerity which the pandemic has fostered and the undeniable reality of its fatality.

And so, as the various nations began to ease the lockdown, there emerged new spikes in case numbers, necessitating the leaders to have a rethink.

Back home, the daily data from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) shows a nationwide surge in confirmed cases. Such escalation portends grave dangers and highlights that the rise is reflective of the post-lockdown attitudes of our people.

Regrettably, the real concerns are about the preparedness of the citizens to observe the safety measures as espoused by both the NCDC and the various governments. In the markets, churches and other public places, there is little evidence that Nigerians keep faith with their promises and plight which prompted the easing of the lockdown. Such basic hygienic practices like regular hand-washing, maintaining social distancing, wearing of face masks and use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers are largely observed in the breach.

But behind the scenes, the various governments and leaders are undeterred by this apparent show of laxity or apathy by the people. Some of the state governors have not ceased to outline different efforts to salvage the situation or limit the spread of COVID-19 which is now at the community transmission stage.

Obviously, such empathy occasioned the many sure steps being undertaken by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State to enhance healthcare delivery and cushion the harsh effects of the virus in the Coal City State.

One of such proactive measures was the recent constitution of an ad-hoc expert medical advisory committee on the de-escalation of the Coronavirus transmission in Enugu State. It was one commendable reaction to the recent spike in the case numbers in his State.

The 12-man committee which has consultant cardiologist and professor of medicine, Prof. Emmanuel Ejim is charged to “recommend urgent and effective measures for the de-escalation of the transmission” of COVID-19 after engaging with leaders of religious groups, market associations, transport unions, civil society groups, organized private sector and similar relevant stakeholders.

The discernible minds have thumbed up the governor for this latest move, remarking that such insights and engagement will help to situate things properly.

Only on Tuesday, Gov. Ugwuanyi granted tax relief and other incentives to taxpayers in Enugu State. This was in
furtherance of his administration’s efforts to cushion the effect of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic on residents of the State.

The governor’s decision was contained in a statement by the Chairman of the Enugu State Internal Revenue Service, Prince Emeka Odo who noted that “the Enugu State Government has, since the inception of the current administration in May 2015, waived the payment of Personal Income Tax as well as Market Tax, for all traders in the major markets of the state”.

The Chairman added that the waivers “which are part of the administration’s pro-poor policies will remain in force and will be sustained till the end of the tenure.”

Other COVID-19 tax relief and incentives as approved by the governor were as follows: “The deadline for the submission of Form A for employees and Annual Returns in accordance with Section 41 (3) and 81 (1-3) of the Personal Income Tax Act (PITA) 2011 as amended for companies and institutions operating in Enugu State has been extended to 30th July, 2020.

“A waiver of penalty and interest charged for late remittance of Pay As You Earn (PAYE) deductions is hereby granted from January to December 2020 for all sectors. A 50% discount on all assessed Capital Gains Tax (CGT) from now till December 2020. A 50% discount on all Personal Income Tax Assessment issued to owners of schools and hotels for Year 2020.

“A 50% discount on all assessed Land Use Charge payment for Year 2020. This discount will expire on 31st of December 2020.”

Till this day, palliative packages are being distributed to different categories of individuals and groups, especially the needy and vulnerable persons. His administration continues to pay the 25 per cent COVID-19 allowance to frontline workers, in addition to the institution of life insurance package for these classes of medical professionals.
Thankfully, Enugu State, today, has the testing capacity for the Coronavirus Disease.

Gov. Ugwuanyi’s massive intervention in the health sector is beyond COVID-19.

He is thinking of the wellbeing of the next generation. And this, perhaps, is the only way to highlight the essence of his massive investments in other aspects of healthcare.

Few days ago, contractors moved to sites as the government began the simultaneous construction of Type Three Hospitals in seven local government areas of the State. The happiness that the projects elicited is yet to die down throughout the State.

On the heels of the construction of the hospitals, Gov. Ugwuanyi took inspection tours of the existing General Hospitals in Enugu-Ezike, Agbani, Awgu, Oji River as well as the Nsukka District Hospital and the School of Basic Midwifery in Oji River. The news was not the visits but the actions that followed.

Ugwuanyi has asked the State Ministry of Works and Infrastructure and other relevant agencies to start the immediate rehabilitation or scope for imminent deployment of materials and men to upgrade these health facilities.

Does it surprise anyone why the National Bureau of Statistics rates Enugu as the fourth best in the country in doctor-patient ratio of 1:1,812? Compare this to oil-rich states like Rivers (1 doctor to 3,661 patients), Delta (1:4,582) and Akwa Ibom (1:7,635) and maybe the significance will sink in well.

These interventions prick at the consciousness of the realists to raise vital questions as to what the previous administrations did to create the much-needed access to quality healthcare for both the urban and rural dwellers.

Though the governor seeks no personal glory for verifiable accomplishments in just five years on the saddle, posterity will judge him kindly when his time is up.

Edwin Eze contributed this piece from Thinkers Corner, Enugu