Akwa Ibom State commissioner for information, Mr Ini Ememobong on Saturday blamed families of retired teachers who collapsed during the on-going verification exercise for retired teachers in the state.
The commissioner told TNN in a telephone interview that those who fainted during the exercise would have been given separate attention by the officials if the family members had drawn the attention of the officials to the condition of those retirees.
When he was informed that the entire exercise was done in disregard to the COVID 19 protocols, the commissioner said people chose not to obey the protocols during the verification exercise and that there was nothing the officials could do.
Saying that he did not have information about people fainting during the exercise, the commissioner he however said the government would have incurred more expenses if the officials were to go to the homes of some of the retirees to give special attention to those who could not make it to the secretariat.
He asked rhetorically: “If we put up a bill for taking the machines to people’s homes, won’t you write that we have embezzled money? In a system, before you make payments to next of kin, there must be image capturing. I do hope that medical assistance will be there. It is unfortunate if people had to faint. But I’m sure you agree that verification is necessary.
Reacting to the abuse of COVID 19 protocols in the course of the verification exercise, the commissioner said “adherence to COVID 19 protocols is a personal responsibility. People refuse to take personal responsibility. We are ready to pay entitlements and verification is necessary. We have said that the people should be reminded to be conscious of the COVID 19 protocols.
“How can they(the officials) enforce the protocols? It is a matter of personal responsibility. Go to the churches, go to the markets and see. People refuse to obey the protocols. There is a presidential directive for people to go to jail if they don’t wear face mask but how many people are sent to jail? For me, it is personal responsibility. These are older people. They are fragile and we can’t send police there to enforce the protocols.”
At the state secretariat on Friday, some of the senior citizens who had gone there for the verification exercise had fainted. Some of them were seen in clutches, battling to receive attention for the officials involved in the verification exercise.
Virtually all those who were seen there were either without a face mask or wore them wrongly. But the principle of social distancing was totally ignored, as the crowd surged uncontrollably.