Considering the high fatalities recorded in many developed countries, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Thursday urged Nigerians to prepare for the worst possible effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CBN gave the warning during the launching of a private sector coalition to mobilise support against the COVID-19 crisis in Nigeria.
The Nigerian Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 is on behalf of the Bankers' Committee, in partnership with the private sector led by Aliko Dangote Foundation and Access Bank.
The CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, said the unprecedented rate at which the virus is spreading suggests Nigeria may be fighting its most lethal adversary to date.
With over 500,000 people infected by the virus globally, statistics from the World Health Organisation showed over 81,000 cases with over 3,000 deaths in China; about 86,000 cases with over 8,000 deaths in Italy; over 95,000 with over 1,100 deaths in the U.S., and 62,197 cases with over 4,000 deaths in Spain.
In Africa, South Africa has 927 infected persons so far, with Nigeria recording about 65 cases so far, with only one known fatality.
But, the CBN governor noted that considering the history of the devastation of the virus in China and U.S, where the rate of fatalities were low initially, there were concerns that Nigeria's fatality figure may rise exponentially in the next two weeks, hence the need to prepare for the worst.
Mr Emefiele said as a follow up on the series of interventions by the CBN in response to the devastation of the virus on the global and Nigerian economy, the coalition was another effort to mobilise the private sector to support the federal government in procuring equipment and materials against the pandemic.
Despite the federal government's efforts so far, the CBN governor sector it was clear the private sector still needs to step in to provide leadership and mobilise private sector resources in support of the effort.
He said the coalition has already set up four committees, including a Steering Committee chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who currently chairs the federal government's committee on Covid-19, to provide leadership.
The committee will also be in charge of procuring all needed funding, equipment and materials for the battle against this pandemic.
The Funding Committee, which has the CBN Governor, Aliko Dangote, Herbert Wigwe, Jim Ovia, Tony Elumelu, Segun Agbaje, Abdulsamad Rabiu and Femi Otedola as members, will be responsible for the initial funding of the effort.
Each member of the committee is to ensure that their institution contributes at least N1 billion to this effort, while new members would be allowed as long as they are willing to contribute at least N1 billion. The target is N120 billion.
The Operational Committee includes the CBN Governor, Aliko Dangote Foundation, Access Bank, Zenith Bank, GT Bank, Stanbic IBTC, Ecobank, Fidelity Bank, Unity Bank and Nigerian Breweries will be responsible for project logistics, communication and advocacy.
The Technical Committee comprising the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), World Health Organization (WHO), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Federal Ministry of Health and select members of the operational and funding committees, will be responsible for gathering data about the equipment and materials needed nationwide.
The coalition will also be working with reputable institutions and consultants including the Lagos State Commissioner of Health, Akin Abayomi, Christian Happi, Phillip Onyebujo, and all medial doctors.
Mr Emefiele said the Bankers Committee is already engaging other interest groups in Nigeria and abroad, such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and players in the oil industry to support the coalition.
"The need for all Nigerians to play a role in this fight cannot be understated as we are quite literally in the fight of our lives," Mr Emefiele said.