A coalition of Civil Society Groups and some Nigerian individuals under the aegis of Civil Society Alliance Against COVID-19 (CSAA COVID-19) have called on the government to be sensitive to the plight of Nigerians as its plans to extend the lockdown measures across the country.
The groups, numbering 71, made the call barely hours after state governors agreed to restrict movement across the country as a measure of combating the COVID-19 outbreak ravaging the country.
In a statement jointly signed and issued on Tuesday, the coalition expressed its worries over the tremendous hardship placed upon Nigerians by the current lockdowns across the country.
President Muhammadu Buhari had issued a lockdown in three states, Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory, and most states across the country had followed suit, restricting movement and ‘closing’ their state borders.
This had increased the hardship on many Nigerians as over 80 per cent work in the informal sector and rely on daily earnings for survival, the group said.
With the number of COVID-19 infections rising daily across the country, the federal and state government have agreed to impose restrictions on movements, in order to halt the spread of the virus.
As of the time of reporting, Nigeria has recorded 873 confirmed cases in 24 states and the FCT. Of the confirmed cases, 197 infected people have recovered and have been discharged while 28 deaths have been reported, including the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari.
The groups advised the government that if it will be extending the lockdown, it should design and communicate a clear strategy for the management of the pandemic and the provision of safety nets in the final week of this current lockdown in our commercial and political capitals.
“Safety nets required include access to basic needs as food, water, sanitation and security which are the legitimate entitlement of every citizen. Any plans for a prolonged lockdown without efficiently and transparently administering these safety nets could create “a cure that is as bad as the illness,” it said.
In another statement, Anap Foundation COVID-19 Think Tank, founded in March to help Nigeria overcome the COVID-19 pandemic threat, agreed with the other groups and called on the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and other stakeholders to evaluate the effectiveness of compulsory lockdowns as well as the unintended consequences which they continue to generate.
The groups complained about the killing of Nigerians by the security agencies in their bid to enforce various compulsory lockdown measures.
Anap, composed of 18 members across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria and the diaspora (USA & Germany), in a statement signed by its chairman, Atedo Peterside, said while 28 people have so far died from the virus, the security agencies have killed 25 persons across the country in a bid to enforce various compulsory lockdown measures.
“A situation where Nigerians are being killed daily by law enforcement agencies at almost the same pace as the Coronavirus kills them is totally unacceptable,” he said.
All the groups called for the government to review the strategy,” as it is clear that Compulsory Lockdowns (as implemented by our own security agencies) are not working.”
“Food has become a lot more expensive in various urban centres, as transportation costs have soared due to rising security obstacles, arbitrary closure of inter-state borders and other supply chain disruptions.
The group agreed that restricted market days and curfews often result in needless overcrowding thereby negating adherence to social distancing.
They also lamented the increasing rate of insecurity in the country as a result of the lockdown.
The groups said the longer the compulsory lockdown, the higher the risk of a breakdown of law and order.
It said the government’s effort at distributing food and money has not been sufficient as only a fraction of those who need it gets it.
“We believe there is a need to change direction from a compulsory lockdown to an intelligent lockdown which largely thrives on voluntary actions by an informed populace.
Instead of enforcing the lockdown, they advised the government to embark on public enlightenment and awareness campaigns to educate the populace whilst also helping to popularise self-quarantine.
These awareness campaigns and self-quarantine measures have helped and they should continue.
“What Nigeria needs now is movement towards an Intelligent and Sustainable Lockdown which is based largely around voluntary compliance. The more Nigerians understand, the more they can self-regulate,” they said.