The Anap Foundation COVID-19 Think Tank has called for a change of strategy adopted by the Nigerian government to tackle the spread of coronavirus and canvassed for a shift from compulsory lockdown to what it called intelligent lockdown.
In a press release jointly signed by its chairman, Atedo Peterside, and Vice Chairman, Abubakar Siddique Mohammed, Anap said to implement an Intelligent Lockdown, it envisaged that most economic activities should be allowed to resume cautiously.
The statement, issued at after its Board Meeting held Wednesday to review nationwide Situation Reports with regard to the ongoing Lockdowns and Social Distancing initiatives being implemented all over the country, said “members resolved to call on the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and other stakeholders to also evaluate the effectiveness of Compulsory Lockdowns (in our bid to manage the pandemic) as well as the unintended consequences which they continue to generate.”
It noted that since the commencement of the Compulsory Lockdowns in Lagos and Ogun States plus Abuja/FCT more than three weeks ago which had now extended to all the states of the federation, the number of people being infected had climbed steadily and the spread to various parts of the country had continued apace.
While noting that 28 persons were confirmed as having died on account of COVID-19, it said 25 Nigerians appeared to have been killed by security agencies enforcing the various compulsory lockdown measures.
“A situation where Nigerians are being killed daily by law enforcement agencies at almost the same pace as the Coronavirus kills them is totally unacceptable,” it said, adding, “It is time to review the strategy, as it is clear that Compulsory Lockdowns (as implemented by our own security agencies) are not working.“
Highlighting the hardship brought on the people by the lockdowns, Anap said, “Food has become a lot more expensive in various urban centres, as transportation costs have soared due to rising security obstacles, arbitrary closure of inter-state borders and other supply chain disruptions.
“Restricted market days and curfews often result in needless overcrowding thereby negating adherence to Social Distancing. There has also been a rise in protests and mob action.”
It opined that the longer the compulsory lockdowns continue, the higher the risk of a breakdown in law and order, despite the best efforts of government and other well-meaning Nigerians in distributing food and money to those in need.
“We believe there is a need to change direction from a Compulsory Lockdown to an Intelligent Lockdown (as practiced by a few countries) which largely thrives on voluntary actions by an informed populace.
“The original expected benefit of the Compulsory Lockdowns was to buy some time so that public enlightenment and awareness campaigns could educate the populace whilst also helping to popularize self-quarantine. These awareness campaigns and self-quarantine measures have helped and they should continue,” it said.
“What Nigeria needs now is movement towards an Intelligent and Sustainable Lockdown which is based largely around voluntary compliance. The more Nigerians understand, the more they can self-regulate,” said the Anap Foundation COVID-19 Think Tank, established in March to respond to COVID-19 pandemic.
It therefore called for an end to compulsory lockdowns and intensification of public enlightenment and awareness of the importance of behavioural changes such as “social distancing in public and in public transportation (with rules that prevent overcrowding), wearing masks, improve sanitation and provision of water in public places to facilitate washing of hands.”
Anap urged the 3-tiers of government, NGOs and the private sector to distribute to all citizens reusable/washable masks and ensure that security and healthcare professionals had the right Personal Protective Equipment for their roles.
Anap said the suspension of large public, social and religious gatherings should continue until further notice and schools should remain closed, adding that those who can, should work from home.
It said the the Federal Government should also make arrangements for Nigerians trapped abroad to return home.