President Muhammadu Buhari does not appear 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 Nigeria’s, the Peoples Redemption Party, (PRP) has said.
In a reaction to the president’s restatement of the inevitability of indefinite lockdown as long as “our scientific advisers declare they are necessary”, the PRP is saying that concepts or terminologies such as aggressive enforcement of total lockdown, flattening of the curve, contact tracing, self-isolation, etc that define the strategy in Nigeria are only good on paper but the strategy of lockdown has been drawn “in total disregard to our environment and circumstances”.
The party is, instead, drawing the president’s attention to how World War 2 to which humanity lost over 80 million lives started in Germany with Germans eating from the dust bins and the 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 said the PRP.
Calling on the president to “save our people eating from the dust bins”, the party is insisting this can be done by fashioning out what it calls more effective, appropriate and sustainable approaches to managing the Coronavirus challenge. It is specifically asking the president to:
(i) 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;
(ii) 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;
(iii) 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;
(iv) invest massively in the 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;
(v) 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,
(vi) reopening public services while maintaining social-distancing in the work-place and commercial operations.
(vii) probing the fairy tale distribution of N20,000.00 each to 2.6 million Nigerians in 4 days as a means of confirming what happened and as important 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;
(viii) 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 counseling and even fine as seen in the jurisdictions we have borrowed our Covid-19 strategy.
The list contained in the reaction to the president’s statement on lockdown and signed by Alhaji Falalu Bello, the party’s National Chairman, argues that complete lockdown may be useful and effective in developed economies and societies as exist in Europe and North America but not where infrastructure such as housing, public transportation, sanitation and water supply are, at best rudimentary, making a wholesale copy of the lockdown template a case of playing the ostrich. “Self-Isolation as 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, said Bello who calls the Covid-19 Strategy that he says has been sold to our president and his governors alien to our circumstances, impracticable and unsustainable “and should be urgently jettisoned”.
He rates the president’s statement as betraying 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. For the president to, therefore, depend on advice of the “scientific advisers” for the determination of whether and when to lift the restrictions on movements is, to him, most ill-advised.
“As experts in similar climes as ours have argued, complete lockdown 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”
His third reason for thumbing down the president is how the statement “convinces us of the Government’s utter disregard and lack of appreciation of its own low executive capacity”. On this core, Alhaji Falalu Bello is taking the statement as evidence of the president knowing next to nothing about what he calls daily realities of majority of Nigerians.
The president’s statement which attracted the reaction had indicated that
(i) Nigerians must continue to observe restrictions on movement where they are in place
(ii) Government has made “multiple” arrangements to assist the most vulnerable amongst the citizenry with, for instance, the distribution of 70, 000 tonnes of grains which is to be released “from the National Strategic Grain Reserve” and the distribution of small cash payments, and
(iii) that since there is no known cure yet for the disease, Nigeria shall not wait for help from elsewhere but end this “outbreak ourselves as Nigerians together”.