By Chibuike Nwabuko
Abuja (Precise Post) – International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law, (Intersociety) has insisted that the federal and state governments’ approach to the fight against coronavirus is hasty and ineffective; even as it has dismissed the quoted 288 official figure of victims as flippant.
However, the group commended the Nigerian media for doing marvelously well in coverage and reportage, but berated the Civil Society Community, particularly some human rights and humanitarian activists or groups for joining the political office holders in seeing the COVID-19 ‘as an opportunity for ‘disaster profiteering’.
The above was the position of the Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law, as contained in a statement sent to Sundiata Post signed by its five principal officers: Emeka Umeagbalasi, Head of the Organization, Chinwe Umeche, Esq., Head of Democracy & Good Governance, Obianuju Igboeli, Esq., Head of Civil Liberties & Rule of Law, Ndidiamaka Bernard, Esq., Head of Int’l Justice & Human Rights and Comrade Sam Kamanyaoku, Head of Field Data Collection & Documentation.
The statement reads in full:
Going by independent assessment of the effectiveness of various measures taken so far by various State Governments and that of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to ‘protect’ the general population against the spread and contact of Coronavirus, it is nothing short of ‘so far so terrible’. In practical reality, ‘it has been fire brigade approach and cover-ups all through’. This is even as the Government’s dismissive official figure (“288”) of infection has continued to increase. For many, if not most of the serving, aspiring and former State and Federal legislators and other political actors in the country; Coronavirus has also become an opportunity for “political jamboree” and expression of “sympathy of the graveyard”.
“As it concerns the role of non-state actors, Nigerian media has done marvelously well in coverage and column or platform analyses. In the Civil Society Community, particularly human rights and humanitarian activists or groups, it is a mixture of disappointment and commendation. While many including coalitions, individual groups and activists, have joined the country’s mainstream political office holders in seeing the COVID-19 ‘as an opportunity for ‘disaster profiteering’ or ‘graveyard enrichment’; others have genuinely, selflessly and sacrificially engaged various Governments and stakeholders at ensuring that the general citizens are critically attended to”.
“Colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy and Public or Environmental Health in Nigeria and their professional bodies are also a huge disappointment. In a country where copies of graduates’ projects and post graduates’ thesis dot and rot away at public disposal sites, we are not surprised. It is deeply sad that ‘naira-mania’ has taken spaces meant for Nigerian universities’ libraries and laboratories as well as their operators’ mental faculties. In a situation whereby it has become obvious that Government has colossally failed to provide the country with data accuracy and other realistic interventions, Nigerian universities and their relevant ‘expert faculties’ ought to have filled the gap, but reverse is maddeningly the case, Intersociety added”.
On a general note, the mother Government in Nigeria joined the rest of the world to curb the Cornavirus, not because it truly cares for safety and protection of the general citizens or values human lives and sanctity of same, but for nothing short of ‘shedding crocodile tears’. It is no longer news and new that Nigeria brazenly lacks functional system including energy supply, science and technology or ‘Sci-Tech’, ICT and its data system, critical infrastructures and social services including healthcare facilities and their qualified personnel. The country’s ‘state actor system’ is also home to moral decadence, insincerity, falsehoods and lies. Soldiering and policing in Nigeria are also nothing short of ‘bravery at shedding innocent bloods’ and ‘cowardice at real enemies of the state and the citizenry’.
Areas Of Government’s Incapability And Incapacitation In COVID-19 Prevention: Aided by ‘disaster profiteering’ motive, lies or cover-ups, the Government of Nigeria including various State Governments are chronically incapable of feeding Nigerians and the world with correct and accurate data concerning the ‘number of people living with Coronavirus’, those quarantined and those saved. This is more so when it is known to all and sundry that Nigeria has terribly failed data system. In the area of lies and cover-ups, Government of today has earned notoriety in being economical with the truth concerning issues of critical public importance. Till date, for instance, the status of Mr. President’s Chief of Staff is shrouded in criminal secrecy.
It is therefore not out of correctness to dismissive figures being brandished or bandied about by Government as ‘number of people that have contacted Coronavirus’ in Nigeria, presently put at ‘288’ as at 9th April 2020. This is nothing but ‘random sampling figure’ and does not represent the true picture of the subject matter. Independently speaking, it is likely that ‘those living with Coronavirus in the country are in “silent tens of thousands”, if not already hit “hundreds of thousands”. Apart from being acutely unprepared, Government also lacks necessary equipment, their adequacy and qualified or handling personnel.
Assuming, but not conceding that ‘there are adequate testing equipment and their handling personnel’ in Nigeria, it is still a truism that Government including various State Governments lack effective measures to compel most citizens to show up at the so called ‘isolation’ or ‘designated’ centers for testing. From Anambra to Imo, Abia, Enugu and Ebonyi; and from Lagos to Abuja, Kaduna, Rivers, Edo to Delta and so on, it is almost an act of impossibility to get the citizens to voluntarily show up for testing and quarantining (if tested positive). These can only be possible where strict measures including provision of adequate equipment and personnel with strict movement restrictions are applied. Zero citizens’ voluntary response, as presently the case, is also fueled by social stigma with which the virus is attached.
In the words of a renowned professor and a former commissioner in a Southeast State, “what most State Governments particularly those who claimed “zero COVID-19 cases” have done was nothing more than random sampling or testing of the minutest few, usually not more than ten persons, who already know their status before going to the designated centers. It is likely that because of stigma, a lot of people are living with the virus with symptoms well known to them but they prefer to live and even die with it and be accorded befitting burial than to do otherwise and be abandoned like a church rat” . In other words, no citizen wants to be known outside his or her confines as having contacted Coronavirus, not to talk of being killed by same; more so when Government has foreclosed the release of bodies of dead victims of the virus to their families. Few captured and tested by Government so far are just ‘collateral victims’.
The only way most citizens can be captured through testing is by cordoning off each residential area and massively deploying necessary equipment and personnel and embarking on door-to-door or house-to-house checks. This method can also be applied hybrid whereby those that tested positive can be isolated and those tested negative provided with protective devices and feeding palliatives. Sadly, the Government, as we have it today in Nigeria including at State and Local Government levels, clearly lacks these capacities-thereby making us wonder how they come about “274” as the total number of infected persons in the country.
What Government Is Capable Of Doing: If only the Government of Nigeria and those of various States can be sincere to the citizenry and shun ‘disaster profiteering’, they can channel more energies and focus on those they are capable of doing-with direct impacts on the citizenry. Rather than pumping more funds into the “testing” or “isolation” centers with empty beds, wards and equipment, Government can channel more funds into fumigation, distribution of protective devices and feeding incentives or cash sums or both.
Like in Uganda recently, Governments in Nigeria can embark on house-to-house distribution of the above named items, using ‘house-hold’ method; and testing where there are enough equipment and personnel. With database used for polio vaccination in Nigeria, for instance, this can be achieved with maximum success. House-hold is also much cheaper and more realistic than ‘citizen head count’ method. In Uganda, each house-hold that is given the items such as feeding and protective items is officially marked to avoid duplicity or fraud. Public fumigation must also be carried out on all the streets, roads, markets, parks, worship centers and so on. This is cheaper and achievable.
Totality of these can be done using the country’s 774 Local Government Areas and their public office and health officials; joined by community and township leaders and district heads. The Government including various State Governments should not have waited to be told to adopt these simple and result oriented methods. Instead and for purpose of ‘graveyard enrichment’, they have resorted to ‘sharing cash in the air’; thereby indulging in what looks smiling to the bank at human misery or disaster.