Human Rights and Governance in COVID-19 Bulletin – Biweekly Bulletin: Issue No. 6

Published by the Secretariat of the Joint Action Civil Society Coalition (Nigeria Mourns)

Biweekly Bulletin: Issue No. 6                                                                    Tuesday, 16th June, 2020

 

Democracy Threatened Under COVID-19

President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday, June 12, 2020, addressed the nation in commemoration of the Nigeria’s 21 years of democratic governance. In his address, he noted that we are celebrating this year’s Democracy Day despite the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic which has put humanity and democracy under threat. President Buhari also stated that despite the challenges, Nigeria’s external reserves grew from $33.42 billion in the first quarter of 2020 to $36 billion; stressing that while every single economy in the world had suffered a decline, Nigeria’s had been relatively moderate. He reiterated that though the ravaging Coronavirus pandemic was a major threat, government was determined to turn it into a call to action to build a stronger nation-wide public health care system that can overcome a pandemic the magnitude of COVID-19, and be prepared for any future outbreaks. The full text of the President’s democracy-day address can be found here.

As at midnight on the 15th of June 2020, 573 new confirmed cases and 4 deaths were recorded in Nigeria. As at this date, 16,658 cases have been confirmed, 5,349 cases have been discharged and 424 deaths have been recorded in 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory, having carried out 94,323 tests.

To see a state by state analysis of Covid19 data click

 

Fictitious Identities Attached to COVID-19 Test Samples

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC Director General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said on Monday, June 15th, 2020, that the centre was constantly receiving samples with fictitious names and addresses making it difficult for states to track down the positive cases for isolation and treatment. He expressed concern over what he described as the increase in high-risk behaviour by Nigerians which was leading to more transmission of COVID-19 in the country. There are many undetected positive cases in the country; Nigerians are therefore warned to take responsibility for their safety by adhering strictly to the coronavirus prevention guidelines.

 

 

 

State of the Nation

Job Losses Due to COVID-19

In a recent survey carried out by The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), it was revealed that 42 percent of Nigerians lost their job due to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Its impact has been widespread across all the sectors of the economy, and most strongly felt in the commerce, services, and agriculture sectors.

Doctors on Strike

The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) of Nigeria on Monday, 15th of June, 2020, commenced a nationwide indefinite strike with the exemption of members attending to COVID-19 patients for a period of two weeks. The industrial action followed the expiration of a 14-day ultimatum issued on the 30th of May. The association’s decision is predicated on the perpetual unavailability of personnel protective equipment (PPEs) for healthcare workers, which has increased infection rates, in addition to other pressing complaints.

Looming Blood Scarcity in Hospitals

In a speech at the commemoration of World Blood Donor Day (WBDD) on 14th of June, 2020, the federal government through the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, expressed worries over the likely reduction in the quantity of blood available for hospital treatment nationwide due to restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Ehanire said a shortage of supply from blood banks might lead to avoidable deaths, morbidities and ill-health.

Schools, Viewing Centres and Stadiums not Safe to Reopen

The Federal Government on Monday, June 15, 2020, warned state governments that were planning to reopen schools to drop the plan as it was not yet safe to reopen schools, television viewing centres,  stadiums and other public places where large gatherings could take place. The Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, warned that the fact that restrictions have been lifted was not a license for carelessness; and noted that the continued  rise in new cases across the country was dependent on Nigerians’ adherence to the prevention and safety protocols.

Still A Rape Pandemic

Citizens continue to advocate and demand justice for the wave of rape incidences across the nation despite the sad fact that most women lacked access to justice during the lockdown and were more vulnerable to Sexual and Gender Based Violence, SGBV. President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday, June 15, 2020, met with the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, at the State House, Abuja to get updates on the efforts of the Police towards addressing the menace of sexual and gender-based violence across the country. The IGP disclosed that the COVID-19 restrictions occasioned a surge in cases of sexual and gender-based violence. He revealed that the Police had recorded about 717 rape incidents across the country between Jan. and May 2020; 799 suspects had also been arrested, 631 cases conclusively investigated and charged to court while 52 cases are still under investigation.

After 18-year old Barakat Bello and 29-year old Azeezat Shomuyiwa were raped and murdered in the time span of two weeks in Ibadan, another female student, Grace Oshiagwu also fell victim. The 21-year-old victim, a National Diploma (ND) I student, was reportedly raped and fatally macheted on her head in a church mission building at Idi-ori Area Shasha on Saturday, June 13th about 3.00 pm.

A 45-year-old mother of 4, Mrs. Susanna Iwuoha was allegedly raped and killed by suspected ritualists in Imo state. The woman, whose undergarments were allegedly carted away by her attackers, was discovered by a community search party after her children raised the alarm over her disappearance since June 3, 2020.

The police in Zamfara have confirmed the arrest of a 25-year-old man, Aminu Bala, for allegedly raping and killing his elder brother’s wife Hauwa’u Iliyasu at Gusau on June 15.

A sexagenarian, Usein Ali, has been arrested by men of the Lagos State Police Command for allegedly defiling a minor in the Ijora Badia area of the state.

Another 15-year-old girl was allegedly raped by a chieftain of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Eddy Ujah, in the Otukpo Local Government Area of Benue State a few days after she had surgery. He is said to have been on the run since the incident.

Across the Regions

North Central

FCTA Shuts down Abuja Mall

The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) on Sunday, June 14, 2020, closed down the popular Jabi Lake Mall, Abuja indefinitely after the facility violated the Presidential Task Force’s (PTF) directives on the ban on public gatherings as part of measures to curb the spread of the dreaded Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The order was issued a day after popular musician, Azeez Fashola, known as Naira Marley, who flew from Lagos to Abuja, despite the ban on interstate movement and flights, featured and entertained a massive attendance of fun-seekers at the mall.

UITH, Kwara State receives Medical Equipment Donation

Prominent businessman and philanthropist, Sir Emeka Offor, through his foundation; Sir Emeka Offor Foundation, has donated 100 hospital beds as well as medical equipment worth $380,000 to the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH) as part of his contribution towards the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the promotion and strengthening of primary health care system in the tertiary hospital and the country.

 

North West

Kano scales up campaign to enhance COVID-19 detection and reduce 2020 budget by 30%

Kano State Epidemiologist, Dr Bashir Lawal reported that the state government has intensified collaboration with partners to enhance the quality detection and response to COVID-19 infections by expanding its sample collection centres, and embarking on mass community testing exercise. Governor Abduallahi Ganduje also announced that the State Government would reduce its 2020 Budget by 30% to help mitigate the economic fallout precipitated by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Vehicles, tricycles, impounded in Kaduna for curfew violation

Security operatives under the Kaduna State joint security outfit, Operation Yaki, impounded about 100 vehicles, 36 motorcycles and eight tricycles for violation of night time curfews imposed by the State Government, between 8pm and 5am. All the owners of the vehicles and motorcycles were charged before a mobile court, facing prosecution.

 

North East                                                                              

Borno State

Enforcement of the COVID-19 induced interstate travel ban turned bloody in Borno State after armed soldiers attacked  the  State’s COVID-19 Committee at a checkpoint in the state on Saturday, June 13, 2020. A driver attached to the Rapid Response Squad in the state was killed during the incident and four other persons were injured.

Gombe state

Gombe State Taskforce on COVID-19, on Monday, June 15, 2020, while updating journalists on the situation in the state announced that in the span of four days, 609 samples had been taken and that 63 had returned positive. Three members of the Gombe State Executive Council, a Special Adviser to the Governor, and five legislators in the State House of Assembly had tested positive, indicating community spread within the state Executive Council. The nine persons were among 63 cases that tested positive for COVID-19, the State’s Taskforce on COVID-19.

           

 South West

Lagos State

As its number of covid19 related fatalities rose, Lagos state recorded  the deaths of some of its prominent residents, whose deaths were suspected to be COVID-19 related. These prominent individuals include: Senator Munir Muse, who represented Lagos Central Senatorial District, from 2007 to 2011 died in the early hours of June 2, Tuesday, at age 81; Former Chief of General Staff, Lt. Gen. Oladipo Diya’s junior wife, Chief Deborah Folashade Diya on May 18, 2020, at age 66; the Executive Chairman of Agbado Oke-Odo Local Council Development Area, LCDA, Mr. Augustine Arogundade on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, after a brief illness; and the serving senator representing Lagos East, Adebayo Sikiru Osinowo, popularly known as “Pepper”, on Monday, June 15, 2020 after battling with  complications related to COVID-19 .

Ondo State

Seven health workers serving at a private clinic in Okitipupa Local Government Area of Ondo State were infected with coronavirus. Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu has since shut the operations of the private hospital; meanwhile, the seven health workers commenced treatment. The state recorded 30 new positive cases of COVID-19 in one week. As at the time of this report, the state had 73 confirmed cases, 33 treated and discharged, 31 active cases and nine deaths.

 

South East

Anambra State

Anambra State Government shut down Eke -Awka market for not observing the COVID -19 stipulated guidelines. The government warned that the remaining 62 markets in the state risk of being shut down if they continued to disobey the guidelines.

Ooni of Ife, Abia and Enugu states

THE Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunlusi, Ojaja II, has shown benevolence to Abia State and Enugu state by donating 2 and 4 modular motorised fumigators respectively to the state governments, to aid their efforts in containing the spread of the Coronavirus.

 

 South South

Cross Rivers State

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in Cross River State vehemently opposed the plan by the state government to commence a trial resumption of schools, branding the plan as “alarming” in view of the “gross under-testing for COVID-19” in the state. The COVID-19 tests breakdown by states as at June 10, 2020, released by NCDC revealed that Cross River has carried out only nine tests.

Rivers State

The Rivers State branch of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has disclosed that 22 doctors and 60 other health workers in the state tested positive for Covid19. The association also decried lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for their members fighting the virus.

 

 

COVID-19 in Africa

The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned on Friday June 12, 2020, that COVID-19 has continued to spread in Africa since the virus was first detected on the continent in mid-February. The WHO Regional Office for Africa in Brazzaville, Congo claimed on its website that more than 215,000 cases had been confirmed, with over 5,800 deaths and 98,000 recoveries. It took 98 days for Africa to reach a milestone of 100,000 cases, and only 19 days to reach 200,000 cases. As at the time of this report, Africa had a record  of 251,408 Confirmed cases, 114,212 Recoveries, 130,433 Active cases and 6,763 deaths. 10 countries bear the heaviest case load in Africa and they include: South Africa – 73,533, Egypt – 46,289, Nigeria – 16,658, Ghana – 11,964, Algeria – 11,031, Cameroon – 9,864, Morocco – 8,885, Sudan – 7,453, Ivory Coast – 5,439 and Senegal – 5,173. The remaining 44 countries each have caseloads below 5,000.

Opinion

COVID 19: ACCOUNTABILITY AND THE RISK OF MISAPPROPRIATION OF PUBLIC RESOURCES

By Mr. Jaye Gaskia, a former presidential aspirant, public affairs and political commentator and analyst as well as development specialist and activist. [Being Text of Talking Points for a Webinar on the same Theme Organised by Actionaid Nigeria, Friday 15th May 2020]

 

 

SETTING THE CONTEXT: ACCOUNTABILITY:

To be accountable implies taking ownership of one’s processes and being responsible for the decisions made and actions taken in the realization of such processes.

Significantly, it also includes the obligation to respond to questions and to explain these decisions and actions in the course of undertaking the processes.

With respect to public expenditure towards combatting the COVID 19 Pandemic therefore, COVID 19 Response accountability requires taking responsibility for the various response processes; being responsible for these processes to constituted authorities – in particular civil authorities [the legislature], and citizens; and the obligation to explain the decisions and actions taken in the course of pursuit of COVID 19 Response processes to constituted authorities and the citizens.

 

POWERS AND CONTROL OVER PUBLIC FUNDS:

The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria [CFRN] as amended in Chapter five, in Part 1 for the federal government with respect to the National Assembly, and in Part 2 for state governments with respect to state assemblies, vest the power to establish accounts into which public funds of the federation [section 80] and of the state [section 120] are to be paid.

Furthermore, the 1999 CFRN as amended also vests the power to authorize expenditure by the executive from the public funds of the federation [section 81] or of the state [section 121] in the national and state assemblies respectively.

Sections 83 [NASS] and 123 [State Assemblies], vests the power to legislate for the establishment of contingencies funds for the federation and the state, and for authorizing the president or the governor to make advances for from the fund, if satisfied that there has arisen an urgent and unforeseen need for expenditure for which no other provision exists.

The implications of the combined provisions of Chapter 5 Part 1E [with respect of the federation], and Part 2E [with respect to a state] is as follows:

  1. The executive arm of government is vested with the power to prepare estimates of public expenditure and present same to the legislature for its authorization;
  2. The legislative arm of government is vested with the power to authorize such public expenditure proposed by the executive;
  3. It is unconstitutional and illegal for the executive to spend any public funds that have not been appropriated by the legislature;
  4. It is illegal and unconstitutional to operate any funds or accounts outside of the consolidated revenue fund established by the constitution, without legislative approval for the establishment of such a fund and or account;
  5. It is consequently illegal and unconstitutional for public funds accruing to the federation of to a state to be paid into any other account, and for funds to be expended from such accounts, other than the consolidated revenue fund of the federation or of the state, except such fund has been established by an act of the legislature and drawing expenditure from it has been authorized by the legislation

 

WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL RISKS FOR MISAPPROPRIATION?

The risk of misappropriation of public funds within the context of COVID 19 Pandemic Response exist in the context of the issues thrown up by the pandemic. The main issues thrown up by the pandemic and for which public funds are required to be appropriated and utilized include:

  1. Public Health Issues: the issues around public health includes issues around;

 (a) testing capacity, with respect to the availability of well-equipped and adequately staffed laboratories to support testing. Virtually every country was caught napping. For instance, Nigeria had less than five testing laboratories at the onset of the pandemic, but now had 15. The ability to test, and the capacity to ramp up testing and test as many as possible is key to containing the pandemic and reversing the spread. Achieving these goals require the disbursement and expenditure of public funds;

(b) isolation and treatment centers are also very key. The capacity to treat those infected depends on the availability and quality of specialised treatment for the disease. Which is why isolation and treatment centers are of extreme importance and are key to containing the pandemic. The federal and state governments are establishing equipped and staffed isolation and treatment centers, and the private sector coalition against COVID have also announced plans to build, equip and hand over to state governments, isolation and treatment centers in each state of the federation and the FCT. Establishing, equipping, staffing and management of isolation and treatment centers also equally require public funds to be disbursed and expended;

(c) Social distancing and Self Isolation are two interrelated public health measures being widely implemented. But we do know that it is difficult and nearly impossible to effectively implement social distancing and self-isolation in overcrowded, poorly ventilated, slum and barely habitable housing conditions, which is the reality of the poor, and of the overwhelming majority of citizens in a context where over 80% of the population are poor and live in poverty. There are cost implications for enforcing social distancing and self-isolation under these extreme circumstances;

(d) Public and personal hygiene and sanitation are also measures being urged, given their efficacy with respect to prevention and mitigation of infectious diseases and their spread. Thence we are to wash our hands regularly with soap and running water. And herein lies the huge challenge. Access to clean, portable and running water is severely limited before the pandemic, and as we all know, is a function of good, humane and habitable housing conditions. And in a country with 20 million housing deficits, which translates into nearly 120 million citizens living in poor, uninhabitable, and inhumane housing, then this is a very huge challenge indeed. With establishments and institutions both public and private being mandated to ensure availability of running water and soaps and detergents for regular hand washing, as well as sanitisers for sterilization of the hands, it is obvious that there will be cost implications for ensuring that these happens;

(e) There are also challenges with the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) for front line workers in healthcare, but also in security and law enforcement who are enforcing and policing the lockdown, and journalists who are covering the developments, personnel engaged and involved with essential services, as well as civil society and other responders who are undertaking various responses to the pandemic among the unreached, etc;

  1. The Palliatives and Stimulus Packages:

Lockdowns have become a major public health response to the pandemic, given the efficacy of the measure with respect to slowing down spread and rate of infection in infectious diseases. Given the unintended impact of lockdowns in disrupting socio-economic activities and processes, governments across the world and in Nigeria [at federal and subnational levels] are also responding with palliatives or subsidies to cushion the impact of the lockdown on the citizenry; and with stimulus packages aimed at keeping businesses afloat and the economy going. The aim is to try to enhance the ability of citizens and economic actors to withstand the impact of the pandemic. However, there are issues that are also arising from these measures, including but not limited to;

(a) The issue of equity and inclusion in the design, implementation and distribution of palliatives and stimulus packages. Whereas it may be easier to reach big business, the challenge is reaching the MSMEs, the informal sector who are for all intents and purposes undocumented. How can the state reach those for whom it has no records, either as individual citizens or individual businesses?  How can we develop in a participatory, inclusive and rapid manner the records needed to ensure equity and inclusion and fairness in the implementation of these schemes? Again, we go back to the limitations imposed by the nature and character of the pre-existing state before the pandemic which calls into focus the necessity for a biometric and developmental state retooled for effective, quality, and equitable delivery of essential social services as public service;

(b) Such palliatives, in whatever form they may be designed, will require the disbursement and utilization of public funds to implement and make possible.

  1. The Economic Impact of the pandemic and the consequent stimulus packages; there are evidently very grave ramifications of the impact of the pandemic on the economy; just as there are equally evident opportunities for ground breaking, inward looking, pro-people economic reforms. The impact on the economy is primarily threefold in its essence –

(a) The public health impact on the conditions of workers and consumers of goods and services, which in turn impact production, distribution and exchange, and thus affect the bottom line of businesses;

(b) The impact of lockdown and social distancing on ability of businesses to operate and function productively; and

(c) The impact of the inability of businesses to operate on the workers and those employed in the impacted businesses.

The cumulative result of all of these are also evidently going to be with respect to closure of businesses, reduced earnings for businesses and government with respect to revenues, potential job losses and layoffs, as well as attempts to reduce workers incomes and salaries.  All of these will potentially negatively impact economic growth, widen the inequality gap, and increase poverty levels.

To ameliorate these and mitigate the deleterious impact on businesses and economic activities, a central and key part of the COVID 19 Pandemic response globally has thus been the utilization of the interventionist tool in the form of design and implementation of various stimulus packages to help to keep businesses afloat and sustain economic activities.

(i)        For instance, the CBN has already floated two intervention funds as stimulus packages in this respect. These are the N50bn Targeted Credit Facility for MSMEs; as well as the N100bn Stimulus fund for the Healthcare sector targeting pharmaceuticals, manufacturing of medical equipment, kits, etc; building and equipping, and upgrading of medical facilities among others;

(ii)       The Federal government is also putting together proposals for a N2tn stimulus package for the economy; while

(iii)      Various state governments are also mulling their own versions of stimulus packages and palliatives.

(iv)      The $3.4bn IMF Facility

The various stimulus packages have to be quantified, costed, and public funds disbursed and utilized in realising their implementation.

The upside to all if these is that crisis is also an opportunity. The core economic lesson from this pandemic is that we must prioritise and invest in achieving economic self-sufficiency, enabling our economy some degree of autonomy from the global economy.

We have a duty to ensure that we ramp up public investment in, and incentivise private investment in social capital development – education (that is tied to the economic and national development needs, and is linked to industry); health (effective and efficient and accessible healthcare delivery – primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare, with universal access); Public housing scheme to ensure affordable, accessible humane and habitable housing for all; along with a universal social security scheme to take care of those who may fall through the net of accessible basic social services.

  1. The question of security, law enforcement and human rights abuse and violation. It is clear that inequitable access to palliatives and stimulus packages, particularly for those who are really needy, and whose survival is more undermined by lack of access is a human rights abuse.

Similarly, the physical and mental abuse that some are subjected to by law enforcement and security agents in the course of enforcing and policing the lockdown and other public health regulations during the pandemic are also human rights violations. And these violations and abuses also have to be checked. Culprits need to be held accountable, and victims need to be redressed and compensated.

It is also important to note that keeping security during the pandemic and law enforcement activities directed at enforcing the public health regulations and measures require the deployment of security and law enforcement agencies and their personnel as well as other specialised task forces, all of which require the appropriation, disbursement and utilization of public funds.

THE MAIN AREAS OF RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH ACCOUNTABILITY:

Haven described the context within which public funds are to be expended in combatting the pandemic, it is important to now outline the major processes around which the risks associated with accountability are high. These will include;

  1. Legislative process: with respect to authorization and approval for public expenditure
  2. Procurement processes with respect to the procurement of goods and services relevant for implementing the public health measures being put in place
  3. Operational processes including the design, management and implementation of the various measures
  4. Personnel management with respect to recruitment, training, equipping, and deployment of the various personnel to undertake the various measures. These will include medical and health care personnel, public and civil servants, security and law enforcement personnel, civilian volunteers, medical personnel, etc.

 

 

WHAT IS REQUIRED TO ENSURE ACCOUNTABILITY:

  1. The insistence on compliance of all measures with constitutional and other legal provisions. All measures must have a basis in law and observe the rule of law.
  2. Legislative action is mandatory for appropriation of public funds to undertake the response. No expenditure should be undertaken by the executive without legislative approval.

iii.        Legislative oversight of executive action in implementing the measures is non-negotiable.

  1. Citizens oversight of the various processes is essential. This should be ensured through the inclusion of mechanisms to ensure citizens oversight, and ensure and enable citizen involvement in the design, implementation and monitoring and tracking of the measures being implemented.
  2. Follow through with the management framework for operation of public accounts for COVID 19 Response within the TSA framework prepared by Office of Accountant General of the Federation, to ensure compliance with transparency and accountability.
  3. The keeping, updating and management of public records, data and information with respect to the response is central to ensuring transparency and accountability, as well as well as in ensuring equity and social inclusion with respect to access within the response.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.