The current COVID-19 pandemic has not only posed a major health challenge to all countries of the world, but it further put to test the capacity of nations and their respective governments to meet the expectations of their citizens. In Nigeria, a study by the Human And Environmental Development Agenda Resource Centre revealed the pandemic further exposed the weak capacity of government to understand and respond to the needs of Nigerians, reports Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s wide spread across the globe came as a rude shock to most people who are still wondering how the disease came about. It was in February 2020 that Nigeria recorded her first index COVID-19 case. This led to shutdown of the country for public health reasons.
As at October this year, some 38.1 million people have been infected with COVID-19 worldwide while 1.09 million of these figures are dead. In Nigeria, the number of cases is slowing down due to reduction in testing.
As at October 14, 2020, the vital information generated in Nigeria include the following, number of confirmed cases of COVID-19: 60,834; total active cases, 7,575;
number of fatalities, 1,116 deaths and the number of recovered cases is 52,143. Cumulative number of samples tested is 567,857; whereas the number of laboratories established so far is 69 with at least one in each state.
This number of infection is a far cry from reality as many people are refusing to submit themselves for testing for the virus. In fact, the three months target set by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to ramp up testing to about two million has elapsed without half of it being met. One of the concerns that the federal government had been expressing was the growing violation of the COVID-19 protocols, especially with regard to use of face mask and observance of social distancing at events, offices, markets and political gatherings. People seem not convinced by government’s position and have continued to flout it’s directives. It appeared as if the citizens do not believe those in government anymore when they ask them to make sacrifices.
The reason for the apathy in observing COVID-19 protocols remained in the realm of conjecture, at least for the federal government which keeps lamenting and expressing fears of a possible spike in the spread of the pandemic in the country due to the behaviour of most Nigerians.
The government through the Presidential Taskforce on control of Human And Environmental Development Agenda,(HEDA Resource Centre)-19 has continued to express concern over the increasing wave of violations of the COVID-19 protocol by Nigerians.
In its latest report on the HEDA Resource Centre COVID-19 intervention efforts, the PTF noted the huge challenge posed by poor engagement with states which manifests strongly in the form of low level of sample collection across the country.
“As at date, only the Federal Capital Capital Territory (FCT) and Lagos have achieved the target of testing one per cent of its population followed by three states that have crossed 50 per cent (Plateau, Gombe & Rivers) Twenty-Six others are yet to measure up to 25 per cent . This is considered a serious problem which is further compounded by the increasing general apathy and disbelief about the risk of COVID-19 in Nigeria”.
The PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha said reduction in the test positivity ratio to less than five per cent further corroborates the belief that the epidemic curve is flattening, despite the unsatisfactory testing rate in the country attributable to general apathy among the populace.
The apathy being shown by Nigerians in the observance of measures and protocols approved by government on COVID-19 may either be as a result of lack of trust, confidence or poor sensitisation.
Perhaps, it was in a bid to help find answers to the lukewarm attitude by Nigerians on government’s policy measures on COVID-19, that HEDA Resource Centre commissioned a research study on the perception on COVID-19 national response effort. The centre said the research was informed by the need to examine the level of response of the federal government to the pandemic in particular and citizens’ demands in general. It said the research was conducted to also measure the trust of citizens in the government and measure the values credibility currency of government with the citizens.
The outcome of the research on leadership approval rating: citizens perception of leadership and governance in nigeria will surely strengthen public participation in the democratic process and provide a challenge in measuring the level of government response to the COVID-19 scourge.
Respondents in the survey knocked the federal and state authorities for poor responses to a pandemic that has hit social, economic and cultural lives of millions of people all over the world.
In addition, the survey revealed respondents’ dissatisfaction with various responses from the Federal and Lagos State Governments. According to respondents, public officials did not do enough to meet global standards rated in their poor management of information, public education, swift responses to public health needs, sharing of palliatives and constructive engagement of the critical sector.
The report provides citizen perception of FG’s decision making and how such affects the people and perspective during the COVID-19 pandemic. Respondents were drawn from the labour force while the survey weighed on gender.
The survey which targeted 1300 respondents recalled a success of 1150 responses. 50 per cent of respondents above 50 years of age said the federal government did not fairly well handle the pandemic while 50 per cent of female respondents said the federal government badly handled the responses.
According to the report, out of 420 respondents, with 262 male and 155 female, 104 respondents said the governments fairly badly handled the response while 104 female, 231 male said the response’s were badly handled. The report contains analysis and evaluation of the various citizen perspectives on government responses.
Most people from 34 to 64 years old felt the responses of the government were bad. The survey was conducted on August 7 and 8, 2020.
While presenting the report Chairman HEDA, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju, said the action was informed by the need to understand, with empirical fact, citizen’s perception of governments at the federal and state levels, with special focus on Lagos as pilot, to determine what level of trust is placed on the governments to represent and reflect citizens’ interest in the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes. Other considerations included the allegations of misapplication and secrecy surrounding the utilisation of resources and funds mobilised to combat the COVID-19 by these governments.
Although the focus of the research was on COVID-19, Suraju said that it can also be of help in understanding the way the public view policies implemented by government which in reality affects their livelihood. No doubt, the research has broadened the debate about the quality of public participation in government policies. It can help the various tiers of government to improve in mass communication and constructive engagement of social and political forces at play in their domain.
“The report highlights how government machinery is often times oiled by exclusion and the lack of effective public participation. The unfolding public protest against police brutality under the campaign slogan #EndSARS has practically demonstrated and confirmed a critical findings of this research, citizens’s lack of trust in government.
“The fact that only 17 per cent of respondents assessed the federal government as either having done fairly well or very well in handling the COVID-19 pandemic is enough indicator to the level of popularity of policy measures by governments. The responses of the federal and state governments should have been more decisive,” the report of HEDA Resource Centre said.
Also Suraju noted that refusal of #EndSARS protesters to return home and abandoned the protests, which is fast gaining momentum across the country in such an unprecedented manner, despite the assurances of government’s commitment to their demands and the disbandment of the Federal Special Ant-Robbery Squad, is a resounding testimony to lack of trust in government or promises of government.
One of the major problems confronting us today as a country is lack of inclusion. Majority of Nigerians are isolated from governance and excluded in the decision making process. In essence, the current COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the weak capacity of the government to understand and respond to the needs and aspirations of Nigerians.
The fact that only 17 per cent of respondents assessed the federal government as either having done fairly well or very well in handling the COVID-19 pandemic is enough indicator to the level of popularity of policy measures by governments. The responses of the federal and state governments should have been more decisive