The federal and state governments have been warned to take practical steps to stem COVID-19 spread and the associated financial meltdown failure of which may stir social and economic upheavals that may threaten the country’s stability and wellbeing.
In a statement yesterday, Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond, (ASCAB) blamed local and central authorities for the upsurge in COVID-19 infection across the country saying the economic and cultural consequences arising from the scourge may affect sustainable development in the country.
The coalition of over 70 organisations working on COVID-19 said this week’s briefing of the Chairman, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha suggested that the battle against COVID-19 was not making the expected speedy progress.
ASCAB said the government is at the mercy of the constitution and has no tenable excuse not to provide health security for Nigeria’s teeming population.
The group, a coalition of labour and several civil society organisations identified ignoring early warning signals, lack of pro-active national strategic plan, unwillingness to cut waste and the contempt for inclusion of critical stake holders in the campaign against the pandemic as some of the reasons responsible for the spread which peaked at almost 9000 cases as at mid-last week.
ASCAB led by prominent human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana said the Federal and State Governments appear to be more interested in the politics of the pandemic than a critical understanding of the pandemic for a holistic solution. The group said as at today the Federal and State Governments have come up with programmes that exist more on paper than in reality all of which have failed to allay the fears and aspirations of millions of Nigerians.
The coalition said with the geometric increase in the number of infections amidst poor testing capacity, lowly statistics, infective contract tracing mechanism, weak legal framework to impose COVID-19 rule, abuse of same rules by the various authorities and poor welfare of medical workers, the spread of Coronavirus might spell doom for humanity in Nigeria unless a more radical approach is adopted.
The group also identified the lack creativity, contempt for indigenous knowledge that could offer solutions and the complete denial of the pandemic by some important political figures as other risk factors that threaten the country’s health fabric compounded by COVID-19. ASCAB said bed spaces, testing kits, protective garments for health workers remainm scarce for public use but are always available for government functionaries and their families.
“We question the capacity of the government to deal decisively with the COVID-19 spread because of so many policy somersaults, an indication of confusion and lack of capacity on the part of the government. The rise from less than 100 to four digits gives room for deep concern. It raises fundamental questions about the future of public health and livelihood of Nigerians which on the long run will be grievously affected by COVID-19”, ASCAB statement signed by the group’s Secretary for Publicity Mr Adewale Adeoye noted.
The group said the Nigerian government was not doing the citizens any favour by insulating them from COVID-19 but rather mandated by law to safe Nigerians as stated in the country’s ground norm.
It said “the protection of Nigerians from the whirlwind of COVID-19 is a right and the constitutional responsibility of the government citing the 2018 signing of the Bill for an Act to establish the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, (NDDC) into law” adding that the mission of the NDDC is ‘to protect the health of Nigerians through evidence based prevention, integrated disease surveillance and response activities, using a one health approach, guided by research and led by a skilled workforce.’
It drew the attention of the Government to the core functions of the NDDC which included to prevent, detect, and control diseases of public health importance; Coordinate surveillance systems to collect, analyse and interpret data on diseases of public health importance; support States in responding to small outbreaks, and lead the response to large disease outbreaks; develop and maintain a network of reference and specialized laboratories; conduct, collate, synthesize and disseminate public health research to inform policy and lead Nigeria’s engagement with the international community on diseases of public health relevance.
ASACAB also cited Section 14 (2) (b) of the Constitution provides that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.”
The coalition said “Before the announcement of the lockdown, many coronavirus patients that required emergency treatment have been refused treatment by public hospitals. Having endorsed such official negligence we are compelled to point out that the Minister of Health has breached section 10 (1) and (2) of the National Health Act 2014 which provides that “A health care provider, health worker or health establishment shall not refuse a person emergency treatment for any reason. A person who contravenes this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N100, 000 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or both. “
ASCAB said by virtue of section 5 of the National health Act 2014, the National Council on Health headed by the Minister of Health is entrusted with the statutory responsibility to “facilitate and promote the provision of health services for the management, prevention and control of communicable and
non-communicable diseases” in the country.
ASCAB said the constitution anticipated a pandemic like COVID-19 and that failure by the Government and its officials to prevent the spread and save Nigerians remains a brutal violation of the constitution.