The novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, has proven to be the worst health crisis of our lifetime. It has hit world economies hard and weakened health systems. When the first case of the disease was detected in Nigeria on February 27, 2020, millions of Nigerians were worried about the nation’s competence to wage a successful war against the ravaging disease.
At the time, Nigeria was battling hard to revive its dwindling economy. The country was also at the mercy of a weak health system. It was clear that the government needed outside support to wage a successful war, save lives and also the economy. The government didn’t hesitate to call for help. The governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, mobilised top players in the private sector to form a coalition that would support government’s efforts. The move birthed the Private Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID).
CACOVID’s membership consists of private sector players, including several banks in Nigeria. The banks did not hide, they donated generously to the CACOVID fund. Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB), United Bank for Africa (UBA), First Bank of Nigeria (FBN), Zenith Bank, and Access Bank, all donated N1 billion each to the relief fund.
Also, Union Bank, Sterling Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Stanbic IBTC, CitiBank, First Monument City Bank (FCMB), Fidelity Bank, Ecobank, all donated N250,000,000 each.
Additionally, FBN Merchant Bank, Rand Merchant Bank, Coronation Merchant Bank, Suntrust Bank, Providus Bank, Wema Bank, Unity Bank, Heritage Bank, Nova Merchant Bank, Polaris Bank, and Keystone Bank each donated N100,000,000. Globus Bank also chipped in with N50,000,000.00.
Thanks to the funds donated by these banks, CACOVID has been able to provide food items to nearly two million households in the country, and has also contributed a great deal to the support of the government on various fronts. Through research funding, setting up of isolation centres, provision of food and cash support for the vulnerable, purchase of test kits and medical equipment and various other means, CACOVID has not rested on its oars as it continues to do more.
Besides funding, banks such as GTBank and Polaris Bank have donated materially to support the nation’s poor health system.
In March, Polaris Bank acquired 400 specialised hospital beds. The beds were handed over to the Lagos State Government (being the state most hit by the pandemic), the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), and other State Governments.
The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Polaris Bank, Tokunbo Abiru, said the bank, working with relevant partners and government, was committed to “doing everything possible to keep our environment safe for all”.
Also, in April, GTBank built a 100-bed intensive care centre for COVID-19 patients in Lagos. According to the Group Managing Director and Chief Executive of the bank, Mr Segun Agbaje, the medical facility was fully-equipped with modern facilities for the treatment of Nigerians infected with the dreaded disease.
The bank also placed a hold on its loan repayment plan for all Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that had obtained credit facilities from the bank. According to the bank, the decision was to reduce the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on SMEs amid the lockdown imposed to curtail the spread of the disease.
Several other banks have also donated relief items to mitigate the negative economic effects of COVID-19 on families.
Although, the fight is not yet over as Nigeria continues to record new cases of COVID-19, the nation has been relatively successful in managing the disease.
For their valuable efforts in ensuring that the Nigerian government is adequately supported in the ongoing fight against COVID-19, Nigerian banks are our #ALEDEHCOVID-19Heroes of the week.