Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The People’s Redemption Party (PRP) has described President Muhammadu Buhari’s lockdown strategy adopted with other measures to deal with the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country as not practicable or sustainable, saying it should be jettisoned.
The party has come out forcefully against the current lockdown and restriction of movement across Nigeria, arguing that it is inappropriate to the country’s specific circumstances and social realities.
President Buhari had on Saturday said the restriction of movement in several states across the country will remain in place as long as experts find it necessary.
He had on March 30th ordered a 14-day lockdown of Lagos, Ogun States and the Federal Capital Territory to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The 14-day lockdown order expires Monday, April 13th by 11 pm.
In a statement by PRP National Chairman Alhaji Falalu Bello, the party noted that:
“The President appears not to understand and appreciate the futility and ineffectiveness of lockdowns as a panacea for the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in an economic and social environment such as ours. Nigeria COVID-19 response strategy with terms such as aggressive enforcement of total lockdown, flattening of the curve, contact tracing, self-isolation, etc, is a very good strategy on paper but has been drawn in total disregard to our environment and circumstances. Complete lockdown, for example, may be useful and effective in developed economies and societies as exist in Europe and North America. But in our own environment where infrastructure such as housing, public transportation, sanitation and water supply are at best rudimentary, a wholesale copy of the lockdown template as a strategy against the COVID-19 pandemic is as good as playing the ostrich. Self-Isolation as another example in most of our houses in our towns and cities where tens of families stay in a house with only a toilet and tap is neither possible nor practicable. The COVID-19 strategy sold to our President and his Governors is alien to our circumstances, not practicable nor sustainable and should be urgently jettisoned.
“Secondly, the President’s statement betrays a complete failure to understand that the COVID-19 pandemic is not just a health emergency but more appropriately a multi-sectoral challenge, with grave implications and threats to not just the public health but the livelihoods of citizens. So, to depend, as the President says he is going to do, only on the advice of the ‘scientific advisers’ for the determination of whether and when to lift the restrictions on movements, is to say the least most ill-advised.
“As experts in similar climes as ours have argued, complete lockdowns in and by themselves cannot and will not solve the challenges that COVID-19 has unleashed. Indeed, the lockdowns themselves may even compound and worsen the incidence of both contagion and spread by, for instance, weakening the immune system through worsening malnutrition, the herding together of masses of people in congested residential spaces which is what you find in most of our cities and towns, and the overstretching of rudimentary health-care facilities and infrastructures.
“Thirdly, President Buhari’s Statement convinces us of the Government’s utter disregard and lack of appreciation of its own low executive capacity. For the President to talk and promise that the Administration is going to distribute lockdown palliatives to the most vulnerable, who largely live from day to day in the interstices of the informal sector of the economy, in the face of gross bungling of the government’s initial efforts in this direction, only goes to betray this disregard of existential realities. “The Nigerian government (both Federal and States) lack the executive capacity to do these in a transparent and effective manner. To begin with, the database that will be used to determine who qualifies for such an intervention and support is just simply not there. “Furthermore, the executive capacity to execute the distribution in an equitable, fair and even-handed manner has simply been shown not to exist. These have been seen in almost all the States that gave out palliatives to their citizens as well as the fairly tale distribution of N20,000.00 each to 2.6 million Nigerians in four days by the Federal Government which most people don’t believe.”
The party has called on the Federal Government to urgently review the strategies that have so far been adopted to confront the COVID-19 pandemic with a view to fashioning out more effective, appropriate and sustainable approaches to managing the Coronavirus challenge.
Bello said: “In more specific terms, the PRP calls on those public institutions to consider adopting the following responses amongst others: review the lockdown orders restricting movements with a view to relaxing them to allow citizens to go about earning their livelihoods in an orderly and supervised manner, procure, subsidize and massively distribute face masks to the public and make the wearing of these compulsory in public spaces until the pandemic is over, and urgently procure testing kits and make them widely available so that members of the community with individuals suspected of showing symptoms of the disease can have easy access for testing.”
The party also urged the government to “invest massively in medical infrastructure and training for contact tracing of confirmed cases, their isolation and treatment, as well as the provision of protective gear for health workers; immediately prepare stimulus packages for sectors of the national economy which are going to be worst affected by the pandemic in the coming months, such as small-holder agriculture, small and medium enterprises, operators in the informal sectors of the economy and selected strategic industries; reopening of the public services while maintaining social-distancing in the work-place and commercial operations; immediately probe the fairy tale distribution of N20,000.00 each to 2.6 million Nigerians in four days as a means of confirming what happened; strengthening the distribution capacity of the Ministry of Humanitarian Services and Disaster Management before engaging them to handle further distribution of palliatives to the needy Nigerian population; and eliminate police and military brutality coming from the enforcement of the lockdowns reported to have cost across the nation more harm than COVID-19 and resort to counselling and even fines as seen in the jurisdictions from which we have borrowed our COVID-19 strategy.
The PRP concluded by saying: “We would want to remind Mr President as a General who has read World War 2 which cost humanity over 80 million lives that, it started in Germany with Germans eating from the dust bins and crash of the German economy in 1930. A broken economy which may follow naked lockdowns as we are witnessing without adopting appropriate measures in the midst of small arms that are in the hands of lawless citizens may result in another Germany in Nigeria because of our huge population. Mr President, please save our people eating from the dust bins.”