Human Rights and Governance in COVID-19 Bulletin – Week 4

Human Rights and Governance in COVID-19 Bulletin

Weekly Bulletin Tuesday 2nd June 2020

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phase Two of Eased Lockdown

The Presidential Task Force on Covid19 (PTF) announced a “Cautious advance into the second phase of the national response to COVID-19,” which would be in place for four weeks from June 2nd to June 29th, 2020, with the curfew imposed on the country reduced to between 10pm and 4am. In line with the agreement reached between the PTF on COVID-19 and state governments, the Federal Government has ordered a “restrictive opening” of worship centers but with the caveat that relevant containment protocols against COVID-19 be respected. The ban on interstate movement and gatherings with more than 20 people however remain active.

The PTF also announced the full opening of banks and the financial services sector, and that the aviation industry was taking steps to work out logistics for the recommencement of domestic flights as from June 21, but stated that schools were to remain closed until medical experts give the nod for reopening.

The PTF has however issued a caveat that said the pandemic was still very potent as Nigeria had not reached the peak of infection. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, and leader of the PTF, Boss Mustapha, stressed a long-held position by the PTF that the state and local governments will take responsibility for the next phase of the lockdown relaxation.

The COVID-19 Caseload in Nigeria passed the 10,000 mark on May 31, with 307 new cases pushing Nigeria past the line only crossed till date by South Africa[1] and Egypt[2]. As at the end of the day on June 1st, 2020, 416 new confirmed cases and 12 deaths were recorded in Nigeria. The 416 new cases are reported from 20 states – Lagos (192), Edo (41), Rivers (33), Kaduna (30), Kwara (23), Nasarawa (18), Borno (17), FCT (14), Oyo (10), Katsina (7), Abia (5), Delta (5), Adamawa (4), Kano (4), Imo (3), Ondo (3), Benue(2), Bauchi(2), Ogun (2), Niger (1). Till date, 10578 cases have been confirmed, 3122 cases have been discharged and 299 deaths have been recorded in 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory having carried out 60,825 tests.

The numbers of tests carried out on a daily basis have also increased. From the daily average of 100o to more than 3900 tests on June 3, 2020. The numbers however fluctuate on a daily basis, largely due the scarcity of testing reagents and insufficient testing centres. Nigeria’s inability to accurately track the true number of cases within its territory and efficiently curb the spread of the virus is largely due to its poor testing capacity.  For example South Africa with a third of the population size of Nigeria had conducted 785,979 tests by June 3, while Nigeria had conducted just 69,801.

 

Health Workers Infected With COVID-19

Over 800 Nigerian Health Workers have contracted Covid19 since the first case was confirmed in February. Out of the 812 infected, 29 are staff of the NCDC. In response to this state of affairs, the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors said they would embark on an indefinite strike if the government fails to address their demands within 14 days for materials they need to work with, including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  In response, the Federal Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire urged all resident doctors not to go on a strike, but to use the avenues of communication to discuss the issues they are facing at the ministerial level.

 

Remains of Persons Suspected or Confirmed to Have Died of COVID-19

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, has released the Guidelines for Safe Transportation of Remains of Persons Suspected or Confirmed to Have Died of COVID-19. Repatriating human remains is a complicated process, often involving the cooperation and coordination of various stakeholders on several levels to ensure the process is conducted efficiently and in compliance with relevant international and national regulations. The guidelines details how to embalm and prepare the remains safely for transportation on both land and air travels. It also highlights the documentations required for such travels.

State of the Nation

Whereabouts of Chinese Medical Team Unknown

One month after the controversial arrival of the Chinese medical team to Nigeria, on the containment of the COVID-19. The Federal Government through the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, has said it does not know the whereabouts of the Chinese doctors and technicians who came into the country to offer assistance in the fight against the Coronavirus. The 15-member Chinese medical team made up of doctors, nurses, and laboratory technicians, arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, on April 8, 2020, with medical equipment worth about $1.5 million, and went on to observe a two week quarantine period in accordance with Covid-19 protocols. Their arrival had generated strong criticisms, but the federal government had dismissed reservations expressed by citizens over their presence in the country, stressing that they were in the country to help. When asked during a recent press briefing about the whereabouts of the Chinese medical team at the daily briefing, Ehanire said: “I want to explain first of all that I think not all of them were doctors and I heard that some of them are technicians, but they are the staff of CCECC, the Ministry of health is not their host, so we can’t always explain what happened to them or where they are.”

 

Nigeria evacuates citizens stranded in China

Nigeria successfully evacuated 268 of its citizens that were stranded in China back home. Many of them had allegedly suffered a lot of maltreatment from their hosts. They arrived at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja at about 2.30 pm on Monday, June 1, via Air Peace airline. The Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said they were expected to proceed on a mandatory 14 days quarantine. This arrival brings to 1,257 the number of Nigerians so far evacuated back home since the global lockdown occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

National Day of Mourning

Nigerians commemorated the third citizens’ led ‘National Day of Mourning and Remembrance for all victims of violent killings across Nigeria’ on Thursday, May 28, 2020. In statements released by the Joint Action Civil Society Coalition, it revealed that the nation had recorded at least 1, 416 violent deaths in the first quarter of 2020.  It also noted that the trend of Covid related extrajudicial killings across the country was worrisome. It noted that 33 persons were killed by law enforcement agents implementing the lockdown stipulations.

 

A Rape Epidemic

It would appear that the circumstances around Covid19 pandemic is aggravating gender based violence across the globe, Nigeria not exempted. The country seems to have been hit with a new epidemic of sexual and domestic violence incidences in the past week, which has fuelled national outrage.

Miss Vera Omozuwa, a 22-year-old 100-level Microbiology student of the University of Benin (UNIBEN) was gang-raped in a church, where she had gone to study, by four unknown men and beaten to a pulp with a fire extinguisher. The case, which was reported at the Oregbeni Police Station, Benin, has elicited outrage with #JusticeforUWA trending on all social media platforms.

In Jigawa State, the Police Command said it had arrested 11 men for allegedly raping a 12-year-old girl (name withheld) in the state. It was gathered that a 57yr old man from ma’ai village, Dutse LGA, and 10 other men raped the victim on different occasions and the suspects were arrested when one of them allegedly lured the victim to the Limawa Market in of the Dutse Local Government Area of the state.

A security man, Gideon Sunday was alleged to have defiled a nine-year-old girl, in Gwagwalada, FCT. He was arraigned on a one-count charge of abuse of a minor at an Upper Area Court in Gwagwalada, FCT on Monday and the Judge, Sani Umar ordered that he be remanded in police custody, he also granted the application made by the prosecuting counsel, Akaso Sunday not to grant bail to the defendant.  The security man confessed to having taken the girl to his room and had carnal knowledge of her.

Elections during COVID-19

As Edo and Ondo states prepare for their Governorship elections, as well as several other bye-elections across the country, the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC assured Nigerians on Wednesday, June 3, 2020, of its fidelity to extant laws and regulations regarding the conduct of elections, stating that kowtowing to the Covid-19 pandemic would throw the nation into a wave of constitutional crises. The Commission therefore proffered the need for innovation and creativity in the electoral process during the COVID-19 pandemic; and emphasized its determination to proceed with cautious optimistic bearing in mind that the health and safety of the people will be crucial determinants of the success or otherwise of the elections.

Across the Regions

North Central

Exactly three months after the index COVID-19 case in Nigeria, Kogi state recorded its first two cases. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, had on Wednesday, May 27, 2020, stated that two persons from the state, the Chief Imam of Kabba Land and his son, tested positive to the virus. Governor Yahaya Bello however continues to deny the presence of the virus in his state. In spite of his denial, the governor ordered an ‘absolute’ lockdown oncommunities in Kabba/Bunu Council areas. This development has further exacerbated the empasse between the state government and the NCDC, after they had been in denial all the while about the status of COVID-19 in the state.

North East

The Covid19 pandemic seems not have impacted the spate of insurgent attacks in Borno state. Six people, including a female suicide bomber, were reportedly killed in separate attacks on communities of Kwabula and Kondori villages of Askira-Uba and Konduga Local Government Areas of Borno state. Three people were also confirmed killed in Kondori village of Konduga Local Government Area of the state by suspected terrorists, leaving scores injured, while others fled into Jakana town and Maiduguri for safety. Currently, there are 296 confirmed cases of covid19 in the state.

North West

Similarly, in spite of the dawn to dusk curfew imposed in Kaduna state, bandits attacked four villages in Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State on Tuesday May 26, 2020, killing 51 persons and setting scores of homes ablaze. Being far-flung areas and bereft of telecommunication network, the communities could not contact security agencies for an immediate rescue. The state, like others in the North-West zone, has become accustomed to this form of mass atrocities. Governor Nasir el-Rufai, who visited the affected villages, admitted that the tragedy was a clear manifestation of failure of the government to protect lives and property as guaranteed expressly in the 1999 Constitution. He said, “We have asked the security agencies to just wipe them out and we will not rest until the bandits are completely wiped out”.

It was reported on Sunday, May 30, 2020 that Dr. Nasir Adam, the Medical Officer in the Department of Internal Medicine, Federal Medical Centre, Birnin Kudu, Jigawa state,  died from coronavirus complications. This was confirmed by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in Jigawa State. The deceased Mr. Adam was aged 36yrs. As of the same date, the state had total of 270 confirmed cases.

 

South West

The Lagos State COVID-19 response team has received 5 ambulances in addition to a cash sum of N200 million earlier received from BUA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of BUA Group, one of Africa’s leading foods and infrastructure conglomerate. This was presented by the Group Chief Operating Officer, BUA Group, Chimaobi Madukwe to the First Lady of Lagos state, Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu. He commended the effort of the Lagos State Government in curbing the effects of the virus and assured that BUA will continue to support various efforts across Nigeria to stop the virus.

 

South South

In spite of the dearth in healthcare personnel to sufficiently provide care to Covid19 victims in Delta state, at about 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 31, gunmen abducted a resident doctor, Dr. Sunny Afore at the Central Hospital in Ojobo Community, Burutu Local Government Area. The gunmen disguised as patients in the hospital and in the process shot sporadically into the air before they abducted their victim who was on duty and they went away with the medical doctor through the rivers. Since the incident, nothing has been heard of the medical doctor, as the gunmen are yet to establish any contacts with his family, as well as leaders of the community. The incident has caused serious tension amongst indigenes and residents of the Community.

Having recorded 121 confirmed cases of coronavirus, 32 recoveries and 9 deaths so far, the Rivers State Government had on Tuesday, May 26, 2020, cancelled the proposed lockdown of Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt local government areas and imposed an indefinite curfew in the entire state to curb the spread of Coronavirus. This came after a comprehensive review of measures taken and considerations by well-meaning members of the public. But by Tuesday, June 2, 2020, with an increase of 21 new confirmed cases, the governor addressed newsmen in Port Harcourt and stated that he might be compelled to reinstate relaxed measures, soon, if people continued to flout established regulations on social distancing and the compulsory wearing of face masks. He told Rivers people to learn to live with the virus and its consequences until an effective vaccine is discovered. As of June 3rd, 2020, the state had  248 confirmed cases, 78 recoveries and 16 deaths recorded.

After confirming that the former Executive Director, Finance and Administration, of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC; Elder Ibanga Etang, died from complications attributable to Covid-19, the Rivers State Ministry of Health has directed the entire management staff of the Commission to go on self-isolation for 14-days with effect from  Tuesday, June 2, 2020. The Ministry has also begun trailing staff and contractors, who had close contact with the deceased.

 

 

Africa’s Plight

Worldwide, the number of COVID-19 detected has summed up to 6,054,187, with 368,711 deaths, and 2,562,191 people recovered. From these figures, The Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) has confirmed that Africa has 135,292 cases across the 54 countries and 3,922 deaths on the continent, while 56,416 patients have recovered from the deadly disease.

South Africa

South Africa has reported 29,240 cases of the coronavirus; with 611 deaths and the country has been largely shutdown since a nationwide lockdown began in late March.  From June 1, Africa’s most industrialised economy will allow most economic sectors including mining and manufacturing to fully resume operations and has also allowed the sale of alcohol but for home consumption. The country’s easing will also extend to allow domestic air travel for business purposes only as the country further eases coronavirus lockdown regulations, the transport minister said on Saturday.

Kenya

The Kenyan authorities are potentially facilitating transmission of the Covid-19 virus while forcefully quarantining tens of thousands of people in facilities that lack proper sanitation, protective equipment and food. Between mid-April and mid-May, researchers spoke to a total of 26 people, including 22 people in 11 quarantine facilities across the country – among them the Kenya School of Government and Kenya Medical Training Institute in Nairobi – as well as three front line doctors and a senior nurse. Those forced to quarantine were incoming travelers, people who had contacts with travelers, and, in some cases, people who violated the curfew imposed on March 27 or orders to wear masks in public. As of June 1, Kenyan had recorded 2,021 cases, 69 deaths and 486 recoveries.

Ghana

The Ghanaian President Akufo-Addo, in his tenth address, announced that while borders remained closed, some categories of academic institutions were allowed to resume, religious places could also reopen with strict conditions and the observance of health protocols. Social gatherings -weddings, funerals, etc. – are to be allowed under certain conditions – among others with a maximum of 100 participants. As the 2020 polls loom, even political activities are allowed to be undertaken. The confirmed cases in Ghana are 8,070, with 2,947 people recovered and 36 deaths.

Ethiopia

In comparison to the rate of COVID-19 case growth and infection of neighbouring countries, Ethiopia is one of East Africa’s least impacted nations with confirmed cases totaling up to 1,257 infections, 217 recoveries,  and 12 deaths, as at June 1, 2020. A state of emergency lasting five-months has now been imposed by the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed led government. All land borders have since been shut as a virus control measure with a raft of restrictions and enforcement of physical distancing and mask-wearing measures. Elections planned for May this year were also postponed citing the effect of the pandemic.

WHO Planning recommendations for Mass Gatherings

As nations begin to navigate through a new normal and gradually ease off the COVID-19 restrictions their countries, the World Health Organisation on May 29, 2020, released Key planning recommendations for Mass Gatherings in the context of the current COVID-19 outbreak to provide guidance to host governments, health authorities and national or international organizers of mass gatherings on containing risks of COVID-19 transmission associated with mass gathering events. General considerations and advice applicable to the organization of mass gatherings, and addressing risks of any origin, should be taken into account when planning an event, as highlighted. Access the WHO Guidelines on Mass Gatherings clicking on this link.

Opinion

By Mr. Jaye Gaskia, a public affairs and political commentator and analyst as well a s development specialist and activist.

RETHINKING LOCAL GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION AND LOCAL COMMUNITIES ENGAGEMENT – LESSONS FROM COVID-19:

[Notes For A Presentation At A Webinar Organised On The Same Theme by Hipcity Innovation Center and Heninrich Boll Foundation, held on Thursday, May 14th 2020]

SETTING THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONTEXT:

The local government Council as the third tier of administration in Nigeria is provided for in Chapter 1, Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria [CFRN] as amended.

Section 7 (1) provides that “The system of local governments by democratically elected local government councils is under this constitution guaranteed; and accordingly, the government of every state shall subject to section 8 of this constitution, ensure their existence under a law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils.”

Section 7 (3) further provides that “It shall be the duty of a local government council within the state to participate in economic planning and development of the area referred to in subsection 2 of this section and to this end an economic planning board shall be established by a law enacted by the state house of assembly of the state.”

Section 7, subsection 5 deals functions of the local government which are set out in the fourth schedule to the constitution; while subsection 6 deals with statutory allocation of public revenue to a local government by the federal government through the national assembly [subsection 6a]; and by the state government through the state house of assembly [subsection 6b].

In the fourth schedule to the 1999 CFRN as amended detailing the functions of the local government council, it is clear by many of the provisions of section in subsections a, c, e, h, and k, directly relate to maintenance of public health.

Section 2 of the fourth schedule goes on to make specific and deliberate provision for the role of local government in the provision and maintenance of health services [section 2 (c).

It is within this context that primary healthcare delivery and primary education is located within the direct purview of local government councils in Nigeria.

HEALTHCARE DELIVERY AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION:

Within the context of the constitution, the local government area is expected to play a decisive and mandatory role in the economic, social and political development of the state of which it is a part. It is intended, given the absence of community administration, to be the closest tier of government and public administration to the people.

Central to this expectation is its mandatory role in the economic planning and development board of the state, delivery of primary education, and the delivery of primary healthcare within the state.

Its role in primary healthcare delivery is thus essential and key to the effective deployment of the three-tier healthcare delivery architecture of the country vis-à-vis primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare. It is instructive to note that this role within a three-tier architecture of service delivery is similar to that in education service sector as well.

And in the management of infectious diseases, an efficient, effective, and qualitative primary healthcare system is the corner stone of preventing epidemics and pandemics, and diagnosing and offering immediate treatment of cases, and ensuring the resilience of the healthcare delivery system in the face of major outbreaks of epidemic or pandemic proportions.

Such a system, to be effective will require to be well funded, adequately resourced, well equipped, and well-staffed by appropriate, qualified, trained and competent healthcare personnel. It must also have in place an efficient and effective referral system linking it proactively with secondary and tertiary healthcare delivery facilities and systems. Without these the public healthcare delivery system will be dysfunctional and will be standing on shaky and faulty foundations.

COVID-19 AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT ADMNISTRATION:

With respect to the COVID 19 Pandemic, the local government council, ought to be able to play a significant role in all the major areas of manifestations of the pandemic, including in public health sustenance, mitigation of economic impact through support to MSMEs; mitigation of impact on livelihoods and food security of citizens and residents through targeted equitable and socially inclusive distribution of palliative measures; as well as within the context of maintaining security and enforcing the COVID 19 Response measures in humane ways through the operation and management of community volunteer units etc.

CHALLENGES FACING LOCAL GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION IN THE FACE OF COVID 19:

  1. Local councils are under resourced both in terms of adequate funding and competent personnel;
  2. Undue interference of state governments in the affairs of local government councils, constraining the ability of the councils to be innovative, creative and autonomous in the management of the local governments, in turn undermining their capacity to deliver effectively on their functions;
  3. Lack of accountability and transparency on the part of local government administrations with respect to their responsibilities to residents, as well as observance of rule of law and operations of the system of checks and balances between legislative and executive arms of the administration, and between the administrations and the local communities within the local council area.
  4. The parlous state of primary healthcare and the near prostrate nature of primary healthcare centers across the country.

LESSONS FROM COVID 19: RETHINKING LOCAL GOVERNVENT ADMINISTRATION;

It is clear that from the way and manner that the COVID 19 Pandemic has manifested and from the nature of the response to it so far that the following key lessons required to be learned and drawn:

  1. Universal access to healthcare delivery is central to tackling and combating infectious diseases and universal access to quality primary healthcare is at the heart of universal healthcare delivery;
  2. Local governments being directly responsible for primary healthcare delivery require to be retooled, and adequately resourced to deliver on this mandate;
  3. Universal access to public humane and habitable housing is pivotal to ensuring public and personal hygiene and sanitation, and in ensuring access to clean portable water; all of which are essential for maintaining good public health;
  4. Local governments need to be enabled to play their central role in ensuring quality housing, and quality livelihoods of residents through the radical overhaul of their structures, the upgrading of their systems, and the training and retraining of their personnel;
  5. Concerted efforts need to be exerted to ensure that the constitutional provisions relevant to the local government administration are enforced, complied with, and adhered to by all relevant authorities;
  6. From the management of the COVID response thus far it is clear that record- keeping is of existential importance to the modern state. The local government administration in its role in registration of births and deaths, and of marriages, as well as licensing of markets and registration of some businesses is core to the evolution and development of a biometric state which is key to effective delivery of basic social services in health, education, housing, energy, transport, etc. If we had accessible records, that are efficiently managed, and regularly updated, it would be much easier to undertake contact tracing and tracking, to stop community transmission, to ensure appropriate targeting of palliatives and stimulus packages, etc.

 

 

[1] 32,683 cases

[2] 24,985 cases

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