A survey of the most strategic points of convergence in urban Kano has shown very minimal compliance with the ground rules against COVID-19. The survey by Kano based Centre for Information Technology and Development, (CITAD) shows that most strategic mosques, markets, streets and makeshift soccer pitches are in full swing. The borders are no less.
The report in question is thus not just for Kano State Government but for all governments in Nigeria, the global health governance actors in Nigeria and the civil society. This is because it confirms the hidden, psychodynamic orientation among a large chunk of the populace that may steel some of them culturally against COVID-19 but could dangerously set the ground for mass deaths.
As part of its commitment to an informed citizenry as critical pillar in the fight against COVID 19, CITAD decided at this point to cross-check the level of compliance of Kano State citizens to the directives issued by the State Government following similar actions by the Federal and other state governments, especially after Nigeria recorded its first case of Corona Virus on February 27th, 2020 in Lagos State.
Kano State, it said, decided to close schools across the state from March 23rd, 2020, asking all workers to stay at home for 14 days. It also closed its borders from mid night of Friday, March 27th as well as issuing directives which strongly advised people to abide by social distancing and avoid congregational prayers, all social activities such as cinemas, clubs, joints and viewing centers were closed and ceremonial gatherings in the state were banned. The Federal and state governments in Nigeria have been criticised for, uncritically, embracing the lockdown approach, a criticism to which the Federal Government, at least, has responded with some attempt to review the lockdown practice.
But the big question has remained: to what extent are the Nigerian people observing the lockdown and some of the recommended practices such as social distancing, hand washing at regular intervals, use of sanitizers and so on? Even if the communities are too dense, some level of these practices can still be observed as the only way to avert what could be such a disaster.
In response to the challenge of informed citizenry, CITAD chose to undertake the assessment by visiting certain mosques, markets and streets within the metropolis.
CITAD used the following as its case study in this report signed by Ali Sabo, Communications Officer for it:
- Friday mosques visited includes Kofar Nassarawa Friday Mosque, Sheik Jaafar Mahmoud Adam Friday Mosque Sabuwar Gandu, BUK and the Central Mosque as well as Emir of Kano’s palace. The Friday prayers were held in these mosques without any prevention measures in place.
- Markets places visited included Dawanau Market, Sabon Gari Market, France Road Market, Kwari Market, Janguza Market and Abubakar Rimi Market. The observers found out that market activities were going on as usual without any prevention measures in place.
- State boarders observed included Zakirai- Ringim, Kano-Zaria and Kano-Dutse. In the case of Dutse, people now go to Takai and take the road to Albasu, taking a feeder road from there to Dutse where there is no border check point. People going to Bauchi, Gombe, Yola, Maiduguri as well as coming from these places all take this route. By the time they get to Dutse, they then take Dutse-Huguma Road where they become geographically located in Jigawa rather than Kano territory and so they are not prevented from going to Birnin Kudu from where they continue their journey.
What Did It Find, Concretely?
- The assessment has shown that people have ignored the social distancing directives. Similarly, activities are still going on in the markets as usual without any obvious precautions in place and ceremonial gatherings are currently going on as usual with exception of few individuals staying at home
- The directive closing state borders is not quite effective as it is supposed to. Reports have shown several people flowing into the state from other states with a little amount of bribe ranging from 200 hundred to 1000 naira, depending on the type of car one is entering with. This is the evidence from travelers themselves and CITAD observers.
- To emphasize on the ineffectiveness of the state border closure, there were incidences of bringing corpses of controversial death to the state like the case from Bichi but which the authorities handled negligently in spite of the intervention of Hisbah Board. What happened is that a family brought a corpse all the way to Bich in Kano State from Abuja to be buried. The family resisted demand by medical personnel to understand the cause of the death. Beyond Bichi, someone crossed the border to Kano and fell sick in Gaya with suspicious symptoms (under examination now).
- “Yan Adaidata Sahu” (tricycle riders) are in full business, carrying as many as four people and they do not carry sanitizers, soap or even water.
- In many places, makeshift football pitches are busy with young people playing out their hearts, unmindful of the implications of doing so. This is particularly so at the FCT Football pitch in Kabuga where staff and youth from the neighboring communities play, Ahmed Musa Centre, CBN Quarters in Hotoro where youth played wedding soccer, Doraiyi Karama and Filin Sarki where youth play daily.
- Wedding bells and ceremonies toll across the state and these are being held without precautions and in defiance of directives against large gatherings. One of the high profile weddings was the wedding Fatiha of the sister of Hon Kabiru Ado Lawaya, the Kano State Commissioner for Youth Development, held in Lakwaya, in Gwarzo LGA which many politicians, government officials and youth attended. It is regrettable that a government official of this position could flaunt this directive by the very government his is serving. This sent a wrong signal as many other people conducted weddings.
On the bases of its findings, it came to the conclusion that some people in the state are not taking the social distancing seriously; that government directives meant to prevent the pandemic from occurring in the state are treated with levity by greedy officials and that there is still lack of good communication between the authority responsible for containing the spread of the virus and people.
CITAD also believes some religious people are sabotaging the efforts of authorities by feeding gullible people with wrong information about the virus and they are co-opting citizens in the process, thereby indicating either the absence or the inadequacy of the sensitization/enlightenment campaigns by the authorities.
It is, therefore, calling on the authorities and the general public to extend the concept of border patrol beyond the highway into the feeder roads so as to prevent people from bypassing authorities. Similarly, it wants guarantee of adequate measures such as proper monitoring on the state’s borders to stop people entering the state from any entry point of choice.
CITAD wants citizens to be fully co-opted into any committee inaugurated by the state in the same manner that it wants religious leaders to be fully sensitive so as to turn the heat on anyone found misleading the public.
Its third action point is the setting up of a committee on public enlightenment on Coronavirus and its preventive measures. This committee might be the conveyor belt for making the public to adhere to the guidelines set by WHO and other professional bodies.
Finally, it wants the Kano State Government to focus not just on raising funds at the detriment of getting people to embracing preventive measures that would be effective in curtailing the spread of the virus.
Once again, CITAD is raising the bar on oversight on the management of COVID-19. It is doing so in this case by raising a team to empirically monitor compliance. So far, no other NGOs is doing this or might be unto it but not yet their results.
Three things are immediately interesting in the report. One is that the monitoring reveals the cultural, religious and specific roadblocks against convincing people that Coronavirus is as real as real can be. It would be surprising if the result from any other part of Nigeria would be fundamentally different.
On the other hand, Nigeria might be sitting on a keg of gun powder should a similar study of Lagos, Ibadan, Aba, Portharcourt, Jos and other key urban centres replicate the details from Kano. The report is thus a warning on the difficult situation Nigeria might be in. Either way, the monitoring exercise is showing that detecting infection is calling for attention if a huge place such as Kano has witnessed minimal observance of the codebook.
Minimal compliance is a problem because, like the rest of the world, Nigeria is relying on locking down the society to reduce the magnitude of infection arising from uncontrolled interaction. Control of movement is an inevitable resort across much of Africa in general and Nigeria in particular because, otherwise, death from Coronavirus could be in hundreds of thousands if not in millions. Why?
All the apprehension from the WHO, Bill Gates, UN Secretary-General and the collection of 9-African former president is simply because, although Africa has a youthful population and Coronavirus should not have been a problem on the continent, the youthful population is, however, a distressed population. The high emphasis on carbohydrates, the scourge of endemic malaria, the noisy atmosphere, the stressful traffic systems, the infrastructural deficit, lack of safe drinking water, police harassment and the worries and anxiety filled life as a result of extended family pressure means most of the African youth suffer from lack of the immunity level that would have protected them from COVID-19. The long and short of it is that reducing interaction among people is key even if other parts of the world are not doing it.