Use the lockdown period to address critical gaps in defences against COVID-19, Group urges FG

THE Civil Society Alliance Against Covid-19 (CSAA-COVID-19)has advised the Federal Government to use the period of the lockdown in Lagos, Ogun states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to strengthen health systems, radically improve protection for health and essential workers and massively scale up capacity to test for COVID19.

Responding to the nationwide broadcast by President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday which focused on measures to contain the spread of the virus, the Alliance in a statement issued on Monday said it welcomed the address by the president and the specific actions it contained with regards to Lagos and Abuja.

“We see the lock-downs planned for these two cities as very challenging, but necessary and justified if implemented consistently, in line with one of the few methods proven to be effective once an outbreak has taken hold,” said the Alliance which comprise about 15 civil society groups and individuals.

“We wish to highlight the fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) on Sunday, March 22nd warned that lock-downs are not a solution in themselves, and that countries must use the time that they buy to address critical gaps in defences against COVID-19, otherwise the sacrifices forced by the lockdowns will be in vain.

“These steps include urgently strengthening health systems; radically improving protection for health and essential workers; and massively scaling capacity to test for COVID19,”

Members of the group also commended the efforts made so far by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) under challenging and quickly changing circumstances.

They also gave kudos to the work done so far by the federal and state ministries of health as well as all health care professionals on the front lines.  

“We recognise the contributions of some private sector organisations, such as GTBank, who has enabled the speedy construction of a 110-bed isolation centre in Lagos and call on all individuals and organisations to continue giving support to the most effective channels and entities including the NCDC,” they said.

Members of the Alliance however expressed shock at a statement from the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari that immediately undermined the attempt at a unifying message to the nation.

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They noted that his statement, which took no responsibility for breaching self-isolation rules, did not address those he has harmed and emphasised that there was one medical system for the ultra-rich and another for everyone else was an unprecedented denigration of this national office.

“We call for his immediate resignation or removal from office. The Chief of Staff’s statement highlights an ongoing national security risk,” the Alliance said.

“We note that by all accounts, far too many of the political elite have undertaken high-risk travel and then behaved extremely recklessly upon their return.

“Some of the impacts are already visible but the greatest danger lies in those cases where at risk or likely COVID-19 positive politicians and their associates fail to come forward or be accountable to NCDC.”

They called on all of Nigeria’s representatives and elites to come forward openly and honestly if they or their staff, extended family members and non-politically exposed associates have had COVID-19 exposure or high-risk engagements and to make sufficient information available for all necessary urgent contact tracing.

This was as they also urged that testing and protective measures should be extended to everyone in their immediate circles, irrespective of class and background.

While commending  political elites who have been frank and open about their own situations, they urged them to take all necessary steps to ensure their staff and associates get tested as they convince their peers to take the right and critically necessary action of coming forward.

“We call on security agencies to revisit their reluctance to act against high profile personalities and carry out appropriate national security investigations with urgency,” they said.

On the impacts of the measures on the poor and vulnerable, they advised that the measures to protect the poor and vulnerable must immediately be scaled and supported at every level of our society.

“The federal and state governments must act much more vigorously, but their measures alone will never be enough. We applaud the Lagos State Government for leading the way in this regard with its ongoing food distribution to 200,000 households with an estimated six people per household for a total of 1.2 million people, even while noting that there are millions more living in extreme poverty in the city.

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“We urge them to continue to scale this up and urge the Ogun State Government and the FCT to follow suit.  We will release detailed suggestions as a matter of urgency but would highlight that emergency measures on COVID19 must take into account achieving food security at a price that is not crippling to those who are on marginal incomes and incomes that will be totally disrupted when ordinary daily activities are stopped for weeks.”

Members of the Alliance are as listed below.

1.    Center for Impact Advocacy

2.    Development Dynamics

3.    Global Rights

4.    House of Justice

5.    Initiative for Research, Innovation and Advocacy in Development (IRIAD)

6.    Justice & Empowerment Initiatives (JEI)

7.    Molluma Medico-Legal Centre

8.    Nigeria Mourns

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9.    Rule of Law & Accountability

10.  SBM Intelligence

11.  SilverchipFox

12.  Stakeholders Democracy Network (SDN)

13.  Tap Nitiative for Citizens Development

14.  YouthHub

15.  Abiodun Baiyewu

16.  Gloria Mabeiam Ballason

17.  Ier Jonathan

18.  Nana Nwachukwu

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19.  Chidi Anslem Odinkalu

20.  Mojubaolu Olufunke Okome

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