Monday, 30 March 2020

News Release: Civil Society Alliance Against COVID19 (CSAA-COVID19): Situation Report #2

The Civil Society Alliance Against Covid19 (CSAA-COVID19) welcomes the address by President Buhari yesterday, March 29th and the specific actions it contains with regards to Lagos and Abuja.

We see the lockdowns planned for these two cities as very challenging, but necessary and justified if implemented consistently, in line with one of the few methods proven to be effective once an outbreak has taken hold.

We wish to highlight the fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) on Sunday, March 22nd warned that lockdowns are not a solution in themselves, and that countries must use the time that they buy to address critical gaps in defences against COVID19, otherwise the sacrifices forced by the lockdowns will be in vain. These steps include urgently strengthening health systems; radically improving protection for health and essential workers; and massively scaling capacity to test for COVID19.

We join with the President in applauding the efforts made so far by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) under challenging and quickly changing circumstances. We also recognise the work done so far by the federal and state ministries of health as well as all health care professionals on the front lines. 

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

We were shocked to see a statement from the Chief of Staff to the President that immediately undermined the attempt at a unifying message to the nation. His statement, which takes no responsibility for breaching self-isolation rules, does not address those he has harmed and emphasises that there is one medical system for the ultra-rich and another for everyone else is an unprecedented denigration of this national office. We call for his immediate resignation or removal from office. The Chief of Staff’s statement highlights an ongoing national security risk.

We note that by all accounts, far too many of the political elite have undertaken high-risk travel and then behaved extremely recklessly upon their return. Some of the impacts are already visible but the greatest danger lies in those cases where at risk or likely COVID19 positive politicians and their associates fail to come forward or be accountable to NCDC. We call on all of Nigeria’s representatives and elites to come forward openly and honestly if they or their staff, extended family members and non-politically exposed associates have had COVID19 exposure or high-risk engagements and to make sufficient information available for all necessary urgent contact tracing. We also urge that testing and protective measures should be extended to everyone in their immediate circles, irrespective of class and background.

We commend those of our political elites who have been frank and open about their own situations and urge them to take all necessary steps to ensure their staff and associates get tested as they convince their peers to take the right and critically necessary action of coming forward.

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

We note the economic impacts of the measures announced by President Buhari and advise that the measures to protect the poor and vulnerable must immediately be scaled and supported at every level of our society. The federal and state governments must act much more vigorously, but their measures alone will never be enough. We applaud the Lagos State Government for leading the way in this regard with its ongoing food distribution to 200,000 households with an estimated 6 people per household for a total of 1.2 million people, even while noting that there are millions more living in extreme poverty in the city. We urge them to continue to scale this up and urge the Ogun State Government and the FCT to follow suit.  We will release detailed suggestions as a matter of urgency but would highlight that emergency measures on COVID19 must take into account achieving food security at a price that is not crippling to those who are on marginal incomes and incomes that will be totally disrupted when ordinary daily activities are stopped for weeks.

We also want to highlight the need for care in implementing measures such as closing state boundaries. Agricultural products and processed food must be able to move across states without harassment. We recognise the importance states will place on protecting their residents, but this can be balanced with sensible measures where key supply chains are recognised as essential services.

We also wish to highlight that essential services must be broadened to recognized those who play essential supporting roles, for example, cleaners of facilities that remain open – hospitals, filling stations, and police offices – whose uninterrupted efforts can save as many lives as doctors and nurses. We therefore seek clarity and care in the application of the new “stay at home” order and commensurate effort in communicating the details that the public and businesses need to understand to ensure that enforcement does not do more harm than good. Families complying with the “stay at home” order also need clarification on the modalities of going out to seek food supplies or health care services, or take exercise that can be essential to physical and mental health in such times, lest the interpretation of the order be left in the hands of law enforcement.

We wish to state that we stand with the people of the FCT, Lagos and Ogun States. We recognise this will be an extraordinarily difficult and stressful period – especially the poorest and most vulnerable who will face the greatest daily hardships. We urge other states to immediately scale their capacity to work with NCDC on investigations, case response, and state level protective measures. We urge states to show greater co-ordination and use mechanisms they recently established, such as the regional working groups decided at the most recent National Economic Council.

We particularly call on the Ministry of Science and Technology to advise on what steps they have taken towards research into finding a vaccine and/or a cure for COVID-19.  We urge donors including the private sector to also support the Nigeria Academy of Science at this time to encourage further scientific research into COVID-19.

We urge that the government provides easier mechanisms for coordination with civil society and other ongoing private sector networks. From today, civil society organisations and community movements are also further organising ourselves and advise of our readiness to work with government, private businesses, and religious networks. We particularly welcome innovative responses and look forward to collaborations that will highlight the potential of Nigeria and its young, vibrant, tech-savvy population working alongside organized grassroots movements.

We urge everyone across the country to take seriously this moment and immediately put in their best – individual sacrifices and collective solidarity/support for others in support of coordinated and public spirited efforts across all levels of government – to make sure we flatten the curve and prevent a potentially unprecedented public health and economic disaster.

Center for Impact Advocacy
Development Dynamics
Global Rights
House of Justice
Initiative for Research, Innovation and Advocacy in Development (IRIAD)
Justice & Empowerment Initiatives (JEI)
Molluma Medico-Legal Centre
Nigeria Mourns
Rule of Law & Accountability
SBM Intelligence
Stakeholders Democracy Network (SDN)
Tap Nitiative for Citizens Development
Abiodun Baiyewu
Gloria Mabeiam Ballason
Ier Jonathan
Nana Nwachukwu
Chidi Anslem Odinkalu
Mojubaolu Olufunke Okome

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