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The sales of fake COVID-19 results

The Lagos State government recently raised the alarm over the sales of fake coronavirus certificates in the state. The state Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, who made the announcement, said a number of people were parading fake COVID-19 certificates.

He said: “It has come to our attention that a number of people are patronising individuals that sell fake COVID-19 results. We are currently putting in processes to identify both buyers and sellers and we will not hesitate to prosecute either to the full extent of the law on Traveller Testing and Compliance.” It is befuddling that the state is treating the issue with kid gloves. Abayomi did not tell us what efforts the state has put in place to arrest the ugly trend.

The commissioner only said measures were being taken to clamp down on both buyers and sellers. Before the government came out with this, it ought to have arrested some of those parading the fake certificates.

This will not only check the trend but also send a strong signal to Lagos residents, nay Nigerians in general, that the effort to stop the second wave of the pandemic is not cosmetic. COVID-19 is not just a pandemic; it is a disaster of unimaginable proportion the world has probably not witnessed since 1918.

It is no longer news that thousands of lives have been lost to COVID-19, the world over. Several top government functionaries, top celebrities, business moguls, sports men and women, the rich, the poor, the young and the old have either died of the complications arising from virus or battling in various isolation centres or hospitals to wriggle themselves free from the clutches of the fatal disease across the globe. We suggest, strongly, that the procurement and sales of fake COVID-19 certificates be treated as an act of terrorism.

This is because it could undermine efforts being made in every facet of the nation’s life – economy, healthcare delivery, education, etc. Not only that, if not tackled immediately, it has the potential to cause mass deaths from the spread of the virus which can result from infected persons parading fake COVID- 19 certificates.

One of the factors which may be fuelling the sales of fake coronavirus certificates is the inability of the Federal Government and the states to monitor private laboratories licensed to conduct coronavirus tests across the country. Most of them might be making brisk business issuing fake certificates because of the poor monitoring and supervision of the laboratories by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), who doubles as the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) for COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, gave credence to this during a recent media briefing in Abuja. Mustapha said all the 90 laboratories established across the country were not operating optimally. He said: “You will recall that we recently issued some protocols to states to which a number of states have been actively implementing.

We thank these states and urge others to follow suit. Closely related to these protocols, is the fact that the strategy of testing to detect and treat remains central to the role states are expected to play. “Data shows that despite the resources already made available to sub-national entities, testing is very low across states in varying degrees. This is not helping our National Response.

Indeed, some states have not reported any infections in several weeks. “Reports received also point to the fact that laboratories recently established in the states are not working optimally. You will recall that we moved from two laboratories to about 90 (public and private) located in all states of the federation.

Their inability to function optimally has resulted in unacceptable levels of delay in receiving results and pressure on the National Reference Labs. “We wish to urge all states to reopen all laboratories and ensure that testing is expanded and turnaround time for results is substantially reduced.”

It is not possible to dismiss the collusion of officials of PTF, states and other agencies in charge of efforts to check the spread of the disease in the issuance of fake COVID-19 certificates.

The story was told of a Nigerian, who came home from Canada but was allegedly defrauded by PTF officials and officially-recommended private laboratories. The man allegedly paid about N40,000 thrice yet he was unable to get the test conducted. He was scammed at each of the laboratories he was asked to go in Abuja.

The man vowed never to return to Nigeria, a country of his birth, because some government officials are cashing in on the desperation of travellers to fulfil the protocols emplaced by the PTF.

It is time Nigeria overhauled the entire process of conducting COVID-19 tests, obtaining certificates and fulfilling other protocols. If the process is less cumbersome and officials stop milking travellers, it is likely no one would procure fake coronavirus-free certificate.

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