Nigeria’s radical populist party, the People’s Redemption Party is calling on the Federal Government of Nigeria to build a Molecular testing centres in each of 97 Senatorial Districts of Nigeria in the next 45 days. This should be scaled up to the 774 Local Governments in the country within the next 180 days. Building this much of testing centres is, according to the party, not only affordable but also doable.
The suggestion is one of three ideas the party is canvassing as alternative to the strategy of lockdown which it reinstates its opposition on the ground that it was uncritically copied from the more industrially or technologically sophisticated Western world.
Lockdown has become a controversy in Nigeria with some informed elements warning that it is a good way of incubating a revolt and massive disorder. PRP’s National Chairman, Alhaji Falalu Bello said in a statement that coincides with Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari’s broadcast Monday evening easing the lockdown.
The point, according to the party Chairperson, is that only that strategy would stop the experience of the 70 year old grandmother from Abuja whose distress call to the COVID-19 managers in Kano was all over the social media across Nigeria last week. Alhaji Bello argues that her experience is the experience of almost all persons in Nigeria (with the exception of Lagos) and except “the top echelons of the Federal and State Governments”.
“In a nation of 200 million, there are only 8 Testing Centres in 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and not all of these 8 are functional”, the statement added, pointing out how this is why not more than 10,000 are reported to have been tested despite the lockdowns across the nation.
“The lack of testing facilities in the nation must be addressed if any meaningful achievement is to be recorded in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic”, it said, adding that it is a shame that a nation as rich as Nigeria has failed to provide at least a Testing Centre per Senatoral District when, according to it, all it takes to set up a Molecular Ward with all equipments is N35million (Thirty five million naira) only which each of the 774 Local Governments can actually afford.
The increase in infections despite the lockdowns should inform our policy makers that lockdowns, with attendant economic costs, are not working and need serious re-examination, argues the PRP on the ground that practices such as social distancing is impossible in the congested settlements “where over 90% of Nigerian population live, cramping as many members of a family as possible into a one room apartment with just a single toilet.
The two other suggestions of the party are fair distribution of palliatives and its case for locally sensitive exit strategy. Arguing how serious a contradiction to order a lockdown without providing for those most vulnerable, the PRP is insisting on the probing of the Ministry of Humanitarian Services and Disaster Management for failure to fairly distribute the N20,000.00 to 2.6 million Nigerians the Ministry has claimed to have done .