Human Rights and Governance in COVID-19 Bulletin – Issue No. 8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Human Rights and Governance in COVID-19 Bulletin

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

 

Weekly Bulletin: Issue No. 8                                                                       Tuesday, 7th July 2020

 

 Living with COVID-19 in Reality

As with a number of countries across the world, Nigeria has chosen to commence a rapid easing of the lockdowns for economic and political reasons, in spite of the fact that it has been unable to reduce the rate of new infections. It is clear to any stakeholder that the government both at the states and federal levels are unable to finance or operate an efficacious distribution of palliatives (particularly food, water, educational aids and bailouts for the business sector).

The realities of Living with COVID-19 is constantly jarring policies both in the public and private spheres across Nigeria, and there are no easy answers.  For example, The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, PTF, on Monday, June 29, 2020, announced a “safe reopening” of schools where only students in  graduating classes were to return to the classrooms to complete their transitional exams, while  the rest of the educational system  remained closed. It however changed its mind within 48 hours and announced that all educational institutions at all levels were to remain closed, and examinations postponed indefinitely.  It however lifted the ban on interstate movements, and announced the phased resumption of domestic flights, starting with Lagos and Abuja (the two epicentres of the pandemic). A number of government agencies also resumed hosting physical meetings, signaling an increase in commercial activities. While this was good news for related businesses, experts and some stakeholders issued notes of caution.

Even if the government had not commenced easing the lockdowns, its agents appeared to lack the political will to strictly enforce them. For instance, law enforcement agents  mandated to prevent interstate movements by the federal and state governments largely failed in their duty, thereby enabling the onset of community and inter-regional spread of the virus. The improvement in testing capacities has continued to expose the ballooning infection rate across the country. However, even more testings need to be done. At less than 5000 tests each day,  with a population of more than 200 million people, Nigeria is barely scratching the surface of its crisis.  A state by state analysis of the Covid-19 data can be seen here.

As of Monday, July 6, 2020, Nigeria had cumulatively recorded 29,286 confirmed cases out of 152,952 tests conducted. While 11,828 patients had been successfully treated and discharged, 654 deaths had also been recorded, leaving 16,804 active cases. With the progressive easing of the lockdown, without commensurate observation of preventive protocols, a poor campaign/ incentive strategy by the government to promote adherence to these protocols,  Nigeria in all likelihood will continue to experience spikes in the number of the reported cases. If the example of the United States is anything to go by, the worst is yet to come.

 

 

State of the Nation

Fresh Lockdowns in View

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Monday, July 6, 2020, lamented the increasing spate of COVID-19 cases, especially among government officials, saying that it was directly impacting governance and security in the country. Emphasising the protection of Nigerian lives, the Taskforce also hinted the possibility of a fresh total lockdown – that would be determined by the events of the coming weeks – to curtail further spread of the virus.

 

Domestic Flights Resumption

The first flight post the lockdown was filled to capacity

Nigeria’s airspace roared back to life on Wednesday, July 8, 2020, as six domestic carriers  resumed flights. The airlines included Arik Air, AeroContractors, Air Peace, Dana Air, AZMAN Air, and Max Air. This resumption followed their compliance with the safety, health, and other guidelines rolled out by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) as pre-emptive measures against the spread of COVID-19. The flights operated only on the Lagos – Abuja route for now. The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, while speaking during the Presidential Taskforce, PTF on COVID-19 briefing in Abuja on Monday, July 5, 2020, also informed that food would no longer be served on domestic flights when operations resume. He explained that the decision was part of efforts to control the spread of the novel coronavirus on flights. The Minister had also said that airlines would only fly at half of their passenger capacities, but as seen above, the airlines failed to comply with this directive.

 

 

 

Educational Flipflop

The Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, on Monday, July 6, 2020, announced during the briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja, that the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) has been scheduled to commence from the 4th of August to the 5th of September, 2020. “We have done the most we can with our representatives at WAEC and we have, confirmed that the dates allotted for the exams will be from the 4th of August through to the 5th of September,” the minister said.

 

774,000 Federal Government Jobs Put on Hold

The ongoing recruitment of 774,000 Nigerians under the Federal Government’s Special Public Works Programme (SPWP) across the nation’s 774 council areas, was postponed after members of the National Assembly had walked out the Minister of State for Labour, Employment and Productivity, Festus Keyamo, during an investigative hearing over the Programme on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. Matters got to a head when the legislators queried Keyamo on how he had handled the project, they insisted that they ought to have had an input on how the programme should be implemented. In other words, they sought to control the programme as to who gets what, where and how. The programme was planned to engage youths for three months in unskilled jobs across the country to address the challenges of COVID-19

 

Elections during COVID-19

Consequent to INEC’s insistence on holding gubernatorial and local government elections in spite of the pandemic; the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) developed a guideline for electoral processes in Nigeria, in the context of COVID-19. This was to provide key public health guidance to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 during elections. This guidelines came in timely after the Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, who is seeking reelection in October, was sighted campaigning at a political event, two weeks before he tested positive for COVID-19. He was without mask, neither did he observe social distancing and was seen to have sneezed at least once at the event.

 

A Spiritual Response to COVID-19

As worldwide COVID-19 confirmed cases hit the milestone of 11 million confirmed cases, and in Nigeria made the 30,000 confirmed cases mark, the Federal Government of Nigeria urged religious bodies across the country to direct their members to fast and pray against the pandemic. The Chairman of the PTF and the Secretary to the government of the federation, Mr. Boss succinctly stated at the taskforce’s daily press briefing that “in furtherance of the synergy being built, the Co-Chairmen of the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council NIREC, would be directing Muslim and Christian adherents all over the country to go in for a period of fasting and prayer”.

 

NAFDAC Analysing 20 Herbal Products for COVID-19

The National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) said it was currently analysing the efficacy of about 20 different herbal products submitted by herbal practitioners as a possible treatment for Covid-19. Director-General of the agency, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, who disclosed this at an investigative hearing on research into the pandemic by the House of Representatives Committee on Covid-19, said after the evaluation, the agency will then come out with protocols for carrying out clinical trials on the products.

 

War Against Rapists

Following the upsurge in sexual violence across Nigeria during the lockdowns, the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Province of the Niger, Diocese of Niger West called on the Federal Government and the Nigerian judiciary to be hard on rapists and treat them as criminals. The Bishop’s Charge was delivered by the Bishop of Niger West, Rt. Rev. Johnson Ekwe.

Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, also vowed that the state would no longer condone perpetrators of rape and other forms of sexual violence. He made this statement while receiving the annual report on the management of gender-based violence and the State GBV Strategic Plan. He decried the alarming rate of violence against children and women, saying that his administration would not relent its efforts to curb the hydra-headed scourge in the state.

In spite of the outcry, sexual violences cases continued to rise unabated  across the nation. Below are examples of such cases:

The Ovwian/Aladja Police Division in Delta State arrested a 60-year-old man identified simply as Ogheneovo, for allegedly raping a 13-year old girl in Ovwian, Udu council area of the state after enticing her with some money.

A 70-year-old man, Mohammed Sani, narrowly escaped being lynched by a mob after he was allegedly caught raping a nine-year-old girl in his shop in Kasuwan Dare in Chanchaga Local Government Area of Niger State.

A 20-year old man, Chikwado Anijiofor was arrested for allegedly raping his neighbour’s six-year-old girl daughter in Ogbudike Okpoko in Anambra state.

Gunmen, on Sunday, July 5, 2020, reportedly attacked a hotel in Isuaniocha, Awka North Local Government Area of Anambra State, and allegedly raped two female lodgers.

The Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) arrested one Apostle Joseph Alhassan of Faith Agape Church, Narayi, Kaduna State, for allegedly raping his 16-year-old maid over a period of five years after a complaint by the Kaduna State Ministry of Human Services and Social Development. The maid (name withheld), who was physically traumatised told the Social Welfare Officer-in-charge of the case, in Kaduna on Saturday, July 4, 2020, that the suspect had been having carnal knowledge of her right from when she started to live with his family at the age of 11.

A 44-year-old cleric of CAC Ogo Oluwa Parish, Oluwafemi Oyebola, has been arrested by the police in Ogun State, for allegedly raping his daughter. The victim told police that the cleric has been raping her since 2015 when she was 19, shortly after the death of her mother. He had impregnated her and procured illegal abortion for her thrice.

 

Across the Regions

North Central

Benue State

The Vice-Chairman of the Benue State Action Committee on COVID-19 and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Administration of the Benue State University, BSU, Makurdi Prof. Godwin Achinge reportedly died of COVID-19 complications, in Jos, Plateau state capital where he had gone to seek medical attention.

Kwara State

Aminu Logun, the Chief of Staff to Kwara State Governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, also reportedly died of COVID-19 complications. He died on Tuesday, July 7, 2020, few hours after the test of his result returned positive, at an undisclosed health facility in Ilorin, where he was rushed the day.

 

North West

Jigawa State

The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has provided 130 youth farmers in Hadeija Local Government of Jigawa State with smartphones and the sum of N100,000 each in cash. Speaking at the programme held on Thursday, July 2, 2020, the Director-General of the NITDA Mr. Kashif Abdullah Inuwa, explained that the programmewas designed to help farmers and other agricultural players navigate their journey in the agricultural chain amid the pandemic.

Kano state

The Kano State Magistrates’ Court reopened on Monday, July 6, 2020, for normal activities sequel to the total ease of COVID-19 lockdown imposed to stem further spread of the pandemic in the state.

North East                                                                           

Bauchi State

To alleviate the hardship on Bauchi residents occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bauchi State government granted tax relief to taxpayers in the state. The Executive Chairman of the Board of Internal Revenue, Muazu Usman disclosed this in a press release issued to journalists on Monday, July 6, 2020, stating that the governor, Bala Mohammed has approved tax waivers to lessen the financial burden on residents.

           

South West

Lagos State

According to the Lagos State Health Commissioner, Prof Akin Abayomi, , at least 2,430 people infected with coronavirus  refused to be admitted at Lagos State isolation centres. He stated that as at July 4, 42,348 COVID-19 tests have been conducted in Lagos state, and of which 10,926 had been confirmed positive. Of the confirmed cases, 1,695 patients had beentreated and had since been discharged from COVID-19 Lagos care centers following their full recovery. 6,259 of the cases monitored in communities by COVID19 Lagos response team are positively responding to treatments.

Ondo State

Medical doctors at the Ondo Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH) under the auspices of the National Association of Government General Medical and Dental Practitioners (NAGGMDP) stopped attending to patients. State Secretary of NAGGMDP, Dr. Olasakinju Tunde, who announced the doctors’ withdrawal of service in a statement, said it was due to failure of Government to accede to their demands which included the alleged failure of the government to conclude negotiations on the erstwhile suspended Minimum Wage and Consequential Adjustments already enjoyed by the Non-Medical Staff Since January 2020, inadequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and their general welfare which include Life Insurance for Frontline doctors.

A week after he announced that he had tested positive for Covid-19, Ondo State Governor, Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, on Monday, July 6, 2020, disclosed that he had tested negative for the virus. The governor updated his status while addressing the state weekly briefing on COVID-19 and related matters in the state.

South East

Abia State

Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu finally tested negative for Covid19 on Friday night, July 3, 2020). The governor who tested positive for the virus in the penultimate week had been in self-isolation where he was equally receiving treatment.

Ebonyi State

The Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi, on Saturday, July 4, 2020 announced in a statement that he had  tested positive for COVID-19, but was asymptomatic and had since isolated himself in line with Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) protocols. The governor said he had handed over the administration of the state to his deputy, Mr. Kelechi Igwe, and appealed to residents to take preventive measures against Covid-19.

South-South

Cross River State

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), on Monday, July 6, 2020, dispatched a 17-man team to engage with the Cross River State government to establish the state’s COVID-19 response team and align it with that of the national, as well as to ensure that the disruption of routine medical services, which has been observed in many states, is eliminated in Cross River State.

Delta state

Five nurses and two mortuary attendants tested positive for COVID-19 in Sapele, Sapele Local Government Area, Delta State. The Sapele council boss, Eugene Inoaghan, said the five nurses were workers at a private clinic in Ugbeyiyi area in Sapele which was sealed two weeks earlier by the Delta State Ministry of Health’s monitoring team following the death of a popular pastor who died of COVID-19 while being secretly treated at the clinic.

 

Governors who have tested positive to COVID-19

S/n Name Sate Date Tested positive Status
1 Gov. Bala Mohammed Bauchi March 24, 2020 Negative, April 9, 2020
2 Gov. Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai Kaduna March 28, 2020  Negative, April 22, 2020
3 Gov. Seyi Makinde Oyo March 30, 2020 Negative, April 5, 2020
4 Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu Abia June 4, 2020 Negative, July 3, 2020
5 Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa Delta June 26, 2020 In isolation
6 Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu Ondo June 30, 2020 Negative, July 6, 2020
7 Gov. David Umahi Ebonyi July 4, 2020 In isolation

 

  

 

COVID-19 in Africa

According to the latest data by the John Hopkins University and Africa Center for Disease Control on COVID-19 in Africa,there were over 470,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus across the continent.  Several African countries continued to impose a range of prevention and containment measures against the spread of the pandemic. As at Monday, July 6, 2020, there were 476,967 confirmed COVID-19 cases on the African continent, with more than 227,282 recoveries, 11,366 deaths, and 238,319 active cases.

With a caseload of 196,750 confirmed cases, South Africa remained the  country the highest number of reported cases in Africa and 16th in the world, according to the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Centre. Nigeria, following at a distance, was the second most affected country by the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa and 50th in the world, with 29,286 confirmed cases. Due to inequities in testings however, the true differences in the number of infected persons may never be known.

Despite having touted a cure to COVID-19, Madagascar on Sunday, July 5, 2020re-imposed a lockdown, following a fresh surge in coronavirus infections two months after the earlier restrictions were eased. 1,621 people were confirmed positive to the virus, with 31 serious cases, among the 23,000 people tested since the beginning of the pandemic.

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS, UNAIDS, raised an alarm that the disruptions in HIV treatment programmes following the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic could cause more than 500,000 additional HIV related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in the next one year. The organisation’s concern was raised in a new report launched on Monday, July 6, 2020, in Geneva, Switzerland, which also noted that the global AIDS epidemic shows that the 2020 target to end the scourge would not be reached due to unequal progress and Africa was highlighted to be at risk of heading back to the AIDS mortality level witnessed as far back as 2008.

 

Opinion

REALLOCATE N27BN FOR NASS RENOVATION TO HEALTH & EDUCATION

Press Statement released on June 4, 2020, by Lai Brown, National Secretary of the Socialist Workers and Youth League.

 

Socialist Workers and Youth League demand that Major General Buhari as a matter of urgency withdraws the N27 billion allocated for the renovation of the National Assembly and redirects this to public services such as public health, universal basic education, etc. On Thursday, the federal government sent the 2020 Appropriation Act (Amendment) Bill to the National Assembly, which was hurriedly passed for second reading at both Senate and House of Representatives the same day. In the revised budget proposal, it can be seen that the federal government has cut the allocations in the previous bill sent before the outbreak of COVID-19 in Nigeria and the global slump of crude oil price.  But again, Major General Mohammed Buhari and cohorts expressed disingenuousness and insensitivity in the manner the national budget’s revision was done. It was gathered that the allocation to the Basic Health Care Provision fund which was meant to cater to the primary health centres was cut by 42.57% that is from N44.4 billion to N25.5 billion. Similarly, a whopping sum of #60.6 billion was cut from the initial #111.7 billion allocations to Universal Basic Education.  It is rather unfortunate for the Federal Government to still introduce the renovation of the National Assembly fund in the proposed revised budget despite the popular criticism that followed such a plan last year. And it is rather insulting to Nigerians that the allocation to the renovation of a complex was revised by merely 25%, that is from N37 billion to N27.7 billion, while cuts to funding of social services were more severe. The allocation to the renovation of a complex occupied by not more than 1000 persons is now more than the allocation to public health that is meant for over 180 million people across the 774 Local Government Areas of Nigeria. The national assembly complex itself doesn’t show any sign of distress, it is not a gainsaying that such allocation to the renovation of the National Assembly is meant to “service” the pockets of friends and families of the Buhari regime. 

It is noteworthy to mention that on 27 March the House of Representatives took delivery of 400 exotic vehicles ordered from abroad, which happened in the period COVID-19 was already causing havoc across the country. This attempt by the Buhari led government shows that the Nigerian bosses’ state has not learned from the current reality we are living through. The COVID-19 crisis exposed the need to increase funding for public health particularly and public services generally. Some countries across the world are drawing this important lesson, for instance in Spain the government nationalized hospitals for public use.  Nigeria before COVID-19 lagged behind on funding of public health. The country has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world. Yet the Coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the subsisting health issues such as maternal mortality, malaria, cholera, etc. Already the Nigerian health sector has N3 trillion annual infrastructural deficit. This implies that the N27.7 billion allocated to a NASS complex which is in a strong condition is more needed in the health and education sectors which are in ailing conditions. We thus call on the NLC, TUC, and ULC to declare a national strike to demand an immediate withdrawal of the allocation to the renovation of the National Assembly complex.  We also urge rank and file workers and youth to join the campaigns for increased funding of public health and an immediate stop to the National Assembly renovation. We should utilize all the resources available to mobilise the Nigerian masses for this important campaign.  It is obvious that Nigeria bosses do not care about us. Even in the period of crisis which has shown that the status quo is catastrophic, the priority of the government is to protect their own interest at the detriment of the people’s needs. It is thus important that we organise to change the system and kick out the bosses that benefit from it. 

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