A coalition of civil society actors and activists have urged President Muhammadu to strengthen the Presidential Task Force on COVID 19 by including the Women Affairs Ministry and other stakeholders and place it under the direct oversight of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for better coordination and alignment.
In a letter to the President, the coalition said since Osinbajo was already overseeing the Economic Sustainability Committee, putting the taskforce under him would accelerate the success of the COVID 19 response through synergistic implementation of the various palliative interventions of the government in the interest of the majority of Nigerians who are on very low incomes.
The letter, which was signed by 70 organisations and activists, read in part: “As we all work together to weather this storm, we are confident that we will beat COVID19 and emerge stronger as a people and a nation.”
They also urged the President to impose lawful consequences on those who recklessly endanger others by disobeying Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) guidelines so that such behaviour would not continue with impunity.
They said: “As such, we call for an investigation into, and prosecution of, the following groups of people: (1) the security personnel responsible for the extra-judicial killings of 18 Nigerians under the guise of enforcing the lockdown; and (2) those who organised and supervised the funeral of Mallam Kyari.”
They called for urgent adjustments to the current lockdown policy and a revamped, people-centred approach to the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath.
They appealed to the federal and state governments to expeditiously carry out extensive mass education and enlightenment campaigns on prevention of COVID19 using all the machinery typically deployed during electioneering campaigns especially radio, TV, town/village criers etc.
They said: “This is a campaign for every Nigerian’s survival. The campaigns should focus on educating Nigerians about COVID19, the use of masks, the need for physical distancing, hand washing, good hygiene practices, non-stigmatization of those who test positive for COVID-19, and what to do at home if people experience mild symptoms.
“Take immediate and decisive steps to rev up the medical and health response to COVID19 which should include, among other things, more aggressive contact tracing and increased community-based testing as well as incentivizing health workers.
“The strategy should be to ensure that the virus is not allowed to spread beyond the seven states still reporting cases and effectively curtailing spread within these seven states while the current lockdown lasts.”
They advised government to drive down the price of food by providing well managed regulation of the movement of food and its safe sale to ensure that food was accessible to all Nigerians.
“Nigeria should immediately consider welfare payments to the unemployed and tax payers below a reasonable income level which could utilise technology and the increasing amount of data gathered by government using BVN where individuals and communities should be able to register online and offline for assistance.”