Hon. Asuquo Nana Udo is the Member representing Ikono State Constituency in Akwa Ibom State Parliament and Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture. Earlier today in an interview with some members of the press in his office at the Assembly complex, he spoke on Governor Udom Emmanuel’s heroic fight against the global enemy-COVID-19 in Akwa Ibom State, the sacrifices of health workers in saving lives from the pandemic, food sufficiency in the State and other salient issues surrounding Coronavirus and the general wellbeing of the people.
Question: How is COVID-19 Pandemic affecting food systems, food security and agricultural livelihood?
Answer: More than 25million residents in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun States were put under Federal lockdown on March 30, 2020 which was later extended to April 14, 2020. Other States were put under partial-lockdown and introduced their own restrictions including a ban on large gatherings and events.
On April 28, new nationwide guidelines measures were introduced including a night time curfew, mandatory use of face mask and a ban on non-essential travels between different regions.
The lockdown was relaxed on 4th of May 2020, despite the effect of COVID-19, Akwa Ibom People are coming out better as a people and it should be noted that it was in a health crisis situation like this one that malaria drugs was discovered.
Right now, the current pandemic has proved that Akwa Ibom State Government has adequate food supply for the citizens. I especially want to commend the effort of our able Governor, His Excellency, Mr. Udom Emmanuel and his agricultural renaissance policy and that of FEYREP- the pet project of Her Excellency, Dr. (Deaconess) Martha Udom Emmanuel. Thus the border closures, the quarantines, market supply chain and trade disruptions that have restricted peoples’ access to sufficient food supply elsewhere is not the case in Akwa Ibom.
Why I’m I saying this? Our able Governor through the knowledge of the only God that we serve and observe in Akwa Ibom State has already before the outbreak of this pandemic put in place some certain agricultural processes that could take care and cater for the State during this pandemic. Especially like the green house we have on the airport road, rice mill, garri processing factory, the flour mill and many more factories.
That was why during his presentation of 2020 budget, he taked and really deliberated on the Agric sector in the budget and agricultural department was one of his top most priorities in this year’s budget. I want to commend him for doing this, atleast Akwa Ibom has not been found wanting in this pandemic.
Question: What is the role if any, do animals play in transmitting this disease?
Answer: To be very sincere, although I am not an expert in this field, but according to World Health Organisation (WHO), the predominant mode of transmission of COVID-19 is from human to human. There is no claim until date that animals play a significant role transmitting or spreading the disease. However, because animals and human can sometimes share diseases known as zoonotic diseases. It is recommended that people who are suspected or confirmed to be infected with the disease should limit their contacts with animals.
Thus, when handling and caring for animals, basic hygienic measures should always be observed including; hand washing before and after handling animals, their food supplies as well as avoiding kissing of pets, being licked by animals or sharing food with them.
It should also however be noted that we do not know the exact source of the current outbreak of coronavirus disease; public health officials and partners are working hard to identify the source of COVID-19. Though the first infections as reported, were linked to a live animal market, it is now obvious that the virus is now spreading from person to person through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing and talking. Based on limited information available to date, risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.
Question: Throw more light on the impact on Fisheries and Aquaculture?
Answer: You will agree with me that prior to COVID-19 and the border restrictions our people consumed mainly the imported carton fisheries. Presently there is a shift to consuming more of the locally farmed and widely caught fishes. And luckily, this happens to be fishing season, so I will say our local fishermen are smiling more.
Question: Who is most at risk from COVID-19?
Answer: Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. My humble opinion is that the frontline health workers are mostly at risk from COVID-19. I wish to use this medium to appreciate our health workers here at home in Akwa Ibom and the world over. These ones are at the front line risking their lives daily, treating and attending to patients, I pray their sacrifices of love and labour will not go un-rewarded.
In addition, people of all ages can be infected by the coronavirus. This is what we all should know and be aware of. However, older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.
Therefore, it is the advice from the medical personnel/professionals that people of all ages should take adequate steps to protect themselves from the virus by observing all laid down instructions and maintain good hygiene.
Question: What should Government do?
Answer: The AKHA is very comfortable with the way Government is handling COVID-19. The head of the team is the Secretary to the State Government who is a very intelligent person working hand in hand with the Commissioner for Health who is also a seasoned professional with a great wealth of experience.
Question: How will you rate Governor Udom Emmanuel in the fight against COVID-19?
Answer: It is time of crisis and pressure that we know great leaders. Governor Emmanuel has shown capacity, he is emotionally stable and doing extremely well. He meets with the COVID-19 committee on daily basis. Very soon, Akwa Ibom will have a testing centre and according to the Government, equipments are only enroute. While other States are building makeshift isolation, the isolation centre in Uruan is a Permanent structure which will transcend the COVID-19 era which is coming to an end very soon by God’s grace. This can be achieved by a visionary leader.
Question: Market women are not cautious of COVID-19 safety measures, what do you think should be done in this direction?
Answer: Government is putting on modalities on ground for the training of persons in various communities who will in return educate others on how to comply with universal safety guidelines. Also, there’s a taskforce supervising the market, that is why markets are not opened everyday but only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Government is on top of it and in the next couple of months, almost everyone will comply accordingly.
Question: Do you consent to Akwa Ibom people dabbling into agriculture as a sustainable enterprise for diversification of our economy?
Answer: Of course, agriculture is very important aspect of the economy. Government has provided Initiatives and loans to farmers. AKEES brought vegetable farming and our people started growing cucumber, cabbage and tomatoes and very soon we will start exportating. The fish farms are also doing well. Another example is our local poultry, since the ban on frozen chicken and eggs, the sector has exploded with phenomenal results.
The Commissioner of Agricultue and Women Affairs has done very well in co-opting the women and empowering them in large scale farming.
Answer: My message to my constituents and all Akwa Ibom farmers is that they should stay safe. Go into your farms and cultivate; put more efforts in your farming activities.
Maintain social distancing and good hygiene as much as possible while in the farms, when transporting the produce and during interaction with buyers. Together, we will overcome this pandemic and we will all go out in full force to our various works and farms again for the betterment of our dear State and the country at large .
Be safe, maintain and observe all the safety measures.
COVID-19 pandemic is real, but soonest, we shall subdue it