FG regrets begging US billionaire for COVID-19 Ventilators

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The Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning has deleted a tweet in which it pleaded with South African-born American billionaire businessman, Elon Musk, for ventilators to treat the COVID-19 pandemic. The Special Adviser on Media and Communications to the minister, Yunusa Tanko Abdullahi, said in a statement that the tweet was not done with the permission of the minister.

The statement read; “An unauthorised post was made on the verified Twitter handle of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning. The fact of the post is regrettable because of which it is brought down. We have made sure our internal processes are strengthened that such doesn’t happen again. The error is highly regrettable.”

The Nigerian Government has said the Twitter post soliciting free ventilators to combat the spread of the deadly Coronavirus from South African-born American businessman, Elon Musk, was unauthorized, with a source at the presidency telling Huhuonline.com that the action was belittling and humiliating and reinforced Nigeria’s international image as a country with highly dysfunctional institutions where bizarre things can happen.

However, the President’s Personal Assistant on New Media, Bashir Ahmad, who also appealed to Musk for assistance, refused to delete his tweet and even re-tweeted similar pleas. Buhari’s aide tweeted, “Hello Elon, I woke up to this your tweet all over the timeline, in this period of worldwide emergency getting ventilators is pretty hard no matter how much money you get, and that’s understandable! Nigeria, my dear country is in need. Kindly send 100s here, we really need them, thanks!”

This came hours after a post on the verified Twitter handle of finance ministry sought the help of Musk who announced his company Tesla is offering free ventilators to hospitals around the world. “We have extra FDA-approved ventilators. Will ship to hospitals worldwide within Tesla delivery regions. Device shipping costs are free,” Musk tweeted. “Only requirement is that the vents are needed immediately for patients, not stored in a warehouse.”

Ventilators are life-saving machines that keep patients breathing when they no longer can on their own.
Musk said his company Tesla is offering to pay for and ship the crucial medical component to hospitals around the world.  Nigeria’s finance ministry, in a response to the Musk tweet, solicited the support of the businessman requesting for the free ventilators. “Dear @elonmusk @Tesla Federal Government of Nigeria needs support with 100-500 ventilators to assist with #Covid19 cases arising every day in Nigeria,” Nigeria’s Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning tweeted.

It later emerged that the tweet by the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning was not officially sanctioned by the presidency; which demanded that it be deleted immediately. Before it was taken down, the tweet had already generated mixed reactions on social media. Critics berated the government for begging for such “giveaway” openly, even as it was also unclear if Nigeria has any critical case of coronavirus that might need ventilators immediately as that is the condition at which Musk is giving out the ventilators. The Nigerian government has several times turned down journalist requests to know the number of ventilators the country has.

Sources have hinted that Nigeria has, at least, 169 ventilators in 16 states. The number of the equipment in Lagos and Abuja is not known. According to a report by World Economic Forum, an average ventilator has 156 component parts; manufactured in 14 different countries with specialized equipment at the cost $30,000; but a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is working on an open-source, low-cost ventilator design that can be made using just $100 worth of parts.