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. 9 Tuesday, 14th July 2020
Na dem! : A Miseducation on COVID-19
At the onset of the outbreak of COVID-19 in Nigeria in March 2020, many Nigerians believed that Covid-19 mainly targeted the country’s elite and affluent, particularly politicians, as though other classes had immunity against the disease. Despite several warnings that the life-threatening disease could hit the poor as well, most Nigerians failed to take the warnings seriously. With the data released by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, the myth that COVID-19 is a sickness of the affluent has been rebuffed. The big question however is: has anything changed in the attitudes of Nigerians?
Business as Usual
It would seem not. After the lifting of the lockdowns, most Nigerians have carried on ‘business as usual’, engaging public life without facemasks or social distancing even with the threat of prosecution. The government itself, which is meant to enforce social distancing norms is not doing a lot better. Not only have their leadership mandated the physical resumption of staff that can work remotely or are nonessential, they have also gone to host physical events and meetings that do not meet with the spirit of the NCDC guidelines. Their flagrant flaunts led Head of Service of the Federation, Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan to issue a directive warning Permanent Secretaries and Chief Executive Officers to reduce the number of physical meetings in the MDAs, noting that “the flow of both the staff and visitors to offices is very high which, sadly, indicates that the directives in the circulars in reference were being observed in breach. She again stressed that “It has, therefore, become very important to reiterate that only Grade Level 14 officers and above, and officers performing essential services, were expected to report for duty. As much as possible, other categories of officers were to be encouraged to work from home.”
The civil society glasshouse could not call out defaulters as good number of them have also gone ahead to begin to host physical meetings and resume normal activities in offices that do not comply with the guidelines.
Without the benefit of observing victims and those dying of the disease, (as most are away in isolation, or are silent about their status because of the fear of stigma), more people started to become very careless and are yield to herd pressure.
In some polls, as many as 30% of Nigerians believe that they were immune to the virus without scientific proof.
Testing, Testing, 1, 2
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, PTF, had in June 2020, declared 20 Local Government Areas in the country as high-risk zones, having accounted for 60 percent of COVID-19 cases in the country. Out of these 20, Lagos alone had 11 LGAs in Lagos Mainland area, predominantly occupied by those at the lower and lowest rung of the social ladder; whereas Lagos in its entirety has 20 LGAs. Other identified councils included: Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) in the FCT, Tarauni in Kano State, Katsina local government area in Katsina State, Maiduguri local government area in Borno State, Dutse local government area in Jigawa State, Nassarawa local government area in Kano state, Oredo in Edo State, Bauchi local government area in Bauchi State, and Ado Odo/Ota in Ogun State.
While there have been a significant number of high profiled COVID-19 related deaths announced by the media, the majority of deaths due to COVID-19 were among the ‘poor’, however, none gained media traction compared to the high profile deaths; hence perpetuating the myth that Covid-19 was not a ‘serious’ disease, and the consequent mass failure to comply with precautionary guidelines issued by the NCDC aiding community spread and the daily rise in numbers.
The reality is that Nigeria is still grossly undertesting, thus enabling the virus to spread under the radar. Public officers who should know better, have also continued to contravene NCDC’s guidelines with wanton impunity. Without proper evidence to show the prevalence of the disease, and the failure of government to set an example for the governed, Nigeria is on a long covid journey!
The PTF on COVID-19 has continued to urge Nigerians to get tested as the surest way to know their status, as it was the only way to determine the prevalence of the virus and understand how to tackle it effectively. As a practical expression of this focus, the NCDC announced on June 30, 2020, that Nigeria now had 40 testing laboratories across the country, for COVID-19 testing. Additionally, NCDC provided a significant support of a total of N100m to be shared across all states in Nigeria and prioritised public engagement and communication as strategies curbing the virus.
On Tuesday, July 14, 2020, NCDC reported that after conducting tests on 12,707 samples, 463 new cases were confirmed and 10 deaths were recorded in Nigeria. This brought the cumulative record to 33,616 confirmed cases out of 199,016 tests conducted. While 13,792 patients had been successfully treated and discharged, 754 deaths had also been recorded, leaving 19,070 active cases. A state by state analysis of the Covid-19 data can be seen here.
State of the Nation
Airborne Transmission Of COVID-19 Is Possible
The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Monday, July 13, 2020, revealed new evidence has shown that airborne transmission of COVID-19 was possible. It, therefore, urged citizens to wear face masks and adhere to other non-pharmaceutical protocols such as avoiding mass gatherings, practicing social distancing, and maintaining hand hygiene through the regular washing of hands.
Adopting a COVID-19 IncidenceTracker
A COVID-19 Incidence and Resource Tracker, Dashboard and Predictive Analytic Platform (Systems Platform) has been endorsed by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 and the Nigeria Governors Forum to assist the containment of the pandemic in Nigeria. The development of the tracker was funded by the Africa Initiative for Governance (AIG) in partnership with the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and the Federal Government. The Systems Platform solution is expected to provide a robust, up-to-date database of Federal and sub-national resource and availability requirements for the COVID-19 response, based on the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended resource specifications on packages for COVID-19.
ECOWAS Supports Nigeria with Medical Equipment
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission handed over essential medical equipment to Nigeria as part of its regional response strategy aimed at managing and curtailing the spread of the deadly virus. The items delivered in collaboration with the German government, include: 12,800 goggles, 294,000 small, medium and large gloves, 23,220 small, medium and large gowns, 8,190 coverall, 1,600 face shields, 2, 000 masks, 10,000 surgical masks, 5,000 sanitizers, 40,512 diagnostic test kits and two ventilators and ventilator trolleys each.
West African Senior School Certificate Examination Postponed
The Federal Government reversed its earlier announcement on the resumption of schools. It also said no Nigerian school would participate in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), earlier scheduled for August 5 to September 5. The education minister, Adamu Adamu, said final year students preparing for the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) will not be allowed to return to school contrary to an earlier announcement by the PTF. He was quoted saying that “it would be better for Nigerian students to lose an academic year than to be exposed to dangers. Schools under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Education will not reopen on August 4th or any time soon. Schools will only open when it is believed to be safe for children.”
Guidelines for Schools Reopening
The Covid-19 Guidelines for the Safe Reopening of Schools and Learning Facilities was released on Tuesday, July 14, 2020.While a specific date as to when schools would reopen has not been disclosed, the PTF has conducted an assessment of the context of education in Nigeria, and has proferred essential guidelines to be followed, while the managers of the sector have been tasked with the responsibility of drawing up detailed protocols and determining resumption dates.
Low Traffic for Air Carriers
Despite the claims of a myriad of health, safety, airworthiness and operational protocols put in place for aeronautical agencies to achieve physical and social distancing on the ground and aboard aircraft, the aviation industry has reportedly experienced low passenger traffic. A survey by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) revealed the unwillingness of many passengers to travel due to the risks of being exposed to COVID-19. Pictures of full capacity flights from the first day of the lifting of the ban may also have jeorpardised the feasibility of safe flights.
Inmates Released due to COVID-19
The Federal Government announced that it had facilitated the release of 3,789 inmates in prisons nationwide as part of measures to decongest the custodial centres nationwide in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the dangers posed to the centres. The Ministry of Interior in collaboration with the Presidential Committee on Correctional Service and Decongestion, the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy and State Executives and other relevant stakeholders were tasked to develop measures to overcome the challenges facing in the Correctional Service.
Across the Regions
The Acting Secretary, Health and Human Services Secretariat in the Federal Capital Territory Administration FCTA, Dr. Mohammed Kawu tested positive for Covid-19. He spoke from his sickbed at the Asokoro District Hospital in Abuja, wanting every Nigerian to know that this COVID-19 is real and anybody can be infected, especially those that are in the frontlines.
The Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, Benue State University, Makurdi, Prof. Zachary Gundu in a letter addressed to the school’s Vice-Chancellor indicated that a senior security staff had died of COVID-19. Prof. Gundu who himself had tested positive for COVID-19 noted that a few days after his samples were taken, he went into one of the isolation facilities in Makurdi. His letter also served as a plea to the public to take the pandemic seriously.
Kwara State Deputy Governor and Chairman of the Technical Committee on COVID-19, Mr. Kayode Alabi, on Sunday, July 12, 2020, announced that some of his aides had tested positive to COVID-19 virus and therefore warned residents to strictly adhere to the safety protocols. The Deputy Governor, however, was earlier announced to have tested negative to the virus. As at the time of this report, his aides were receiving treatment at the state Isolation Centre, at Sobi Specialist Hospital in Ilorin.
On Wednesday, July 15, 2020, Kebbi state Government announced, a 100 percent waiver on the payment of the 2020 Development Levy paid in the state by all taxable adults. The government also waived 50 percent off on all accrued interests and penalties on tax liabilities of corporate bodies in the state. The waiver was to cushion the effect of COVID-19 on individuals and businesses. however, all other taxpayers that were yet to file their returns were given till July 30, 2020, to do so.
At least 500,000 children across primary, junior and secondary schools have benefitted from a radio learning programme supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF and the State Universal Basic Education Board in Adamawa State. The initiative was funded by the German Government in support to the state government to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and engage children through innovative radio learning approaches. the Programme provided literacy and numeracy lessons for children in primary classes and Mathematics, English Language, Civic Education, Chemistry and Biology classes for others in junior and secondary school levels.
The United Nations Resident Coordinator (RC) in Nigeria, Mr. Edward Kallon promised on Tuesday, July 7, 2020, to support the Gombe state government in its quest to strengthen its social safety net as part of its post-COVID -19 plans. The UN representative in Nigeria gave the assurance when Governor Inuwa Yahaya paid him a courtesy visit at the UN House in Abuja. Kallon stressed the need to develop strategies to utilize the social protection system that will be adaptive and resilient.
Law Maker Dies
A 59-year-old lawmaker representing Kosofe Constituency II at the Lagos State House of Assembly, and the House Committee Chairman on Information, Security and Strategy, Hon. Tunde Braimoh, reportedly died in the early hours of Friday, July 10, 2020, of COVID-19 related complications.
Social Distancing Compliant Transportation
The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Lagos State Sector Command announced that it had impounded 1,460 vehicles for violating COVID-19 guidelines against overloading passengers between April and June 2020. The command had previously commenced an inspection tour of motor parks to monitor and sensitise transport operators to enhance adherence to COVID-19 public transport guidelines.
A former Chairman of the Nigeria Medical Association in Ondo state, Dr. Michael Adeyeri died of COVID-19 complications on Thursday, July 9, 2020, at the Federal Medical Centre in Owo. He had been battling an underlying illness before he contracted the deadly virus. His death came a week after the death of the state Health Commissioner, Dr. Wahab Adegbenro who had also died of complications from COVID-19 at the same hospital.
The Chairman of Imo State TaskForce on COVID-19, Prof. Maurice Iwu asserted during a briefing of newsmen on Tuesday, July 14, 2020, that it was criminal for people not to wear face mask considering the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. He noted that people had taken a very dangerous position and were yet to come to terms with the existence of COVID-19.
The Anambra State government announced that defaulters of its compulsory public facemasks wearing directives were to pay a fine of N10, 000 was, or be sentenced to community service or both by. The leadership of various markets in the state also constituted enforcement teams to ensure compliance with the prescribed protocols, by traders and visitors at the respective markets. Regrettably, however, some groups took advantage of the measures to harass, intimidate and extort money from unsuspecting members of the public, under the pretext of enforcing the directives, posing as officials of the government, wearing the customary reflective jackets, and operating a shuttle buses/Keke with stickers bearing COVID-19 Task Force, they have developed a notoriety for extorting bribes from defaulters..
Having completed the compulsory 14-day isolation period and tested negative, the Edo State Government discharged 3,769 persons who were suspected to have contracted COVID-19 across the state’s 18 Local Government Areas (LGAs). The government announced that it was further engaging in the contact-tracing of 4,327 listed persons
Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa announced via a tweet on Tuesday, July 14, 2020, that he and his family had recovered from the disease. He, thereafter, appealed to residents of the state to obey all COVID-19 regulations noting that it required a concerted effort to stop the transmission of the virus.
COVID-19 in Africa
As of July 14, the total confirmed cases of COVID-19 from the 55 African countries reached 611,115. Reported deaths numbered 13,463 and recoveries 302,923. This represents 5% of all cases reported globally. South Africa had the most reported number cases – 287,796, with deaths numbering 4,172. Other most-affected countries include Egypt (83,001 cases), Nigeria (33,153), Algeria (19,689), and Ghana (24,988). The numbers were compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University using statistics from the World Health Organization and other international institutions as well as national and regional public health departments. The African Union Centre for Disease Control, AUCDC, COVID-19 Outbreak Brief can be viewed here.
Africa Not Rising
The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a severe blow to Africa in multiple ways. Just a year ago, the world was excited about Africa’s economic growth, especially in small economies. The enthusiasm was not misplaced because Africa was one of the fastest-growing regions in the world. The 2.4% economic growth that Africa registered could easily have been higher if big economies such as Nigeria and South Africa had registered more growth than they did. The coronavirus pandemic has, however, punctured the enthusiasm of 2019.
According to the African Development Bank, Nearly 50 million Africans could be pushed into extreme poverty owing to the coronavirus pandemic. West and Central Africa stand to be most hit by the economic slump. In the bank’s latest economic outlook, roughly a third of the continent was already expected to live below the international poverty line of 1.90 US dollars per day in 2020. With this in mind, the AfDB expects Africa to suffer a major recession, nevertheless, the bank noted that Africa’s economic growth could rebound in 2021, provided that governments manage the COVID-19 infection rate well.