By Peter Uzoho
A leading coalition, Alliance for the Survival of COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), led by a human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana, has held the federal and state governments responsible for the rise in COVID-19 in the country.
Last week, Nigeria recorded more than 1,500 new cases amidst fears of shortages in oxygen and spilling over of the few isolation centres in Africa’s most populous country.
In a statement issued yesterday, ASCAB faulted government’s lukewarm attitude to the rising tide of the global plague warning that the country faces more deaths unless radical steps are taken to reverse the trend.
Since last year February, Nigeria has recorded some 99,063 cases with 79,417 recovered and 1,350 deaths. As at last week, Lagos leads with 220 deaths followed by 82 in Abuja but the digits change every day.
ASCAB said responses to COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria have been largely elite driven. It expressed fears that the 100,000 doses the federal government plans to import in January 2021 are likely to be preserved for the rich and the wealthy in the society leaving the poor out of the scheme.
“Nigerians are faced with more deaths in the face of the rising casualties of people dying from COVID-19 across the country. While the second wave hit Europe and Asia in late October, the Nigerians authorizes had a window opportunity to make preparations for the inevitable second wave hitting Nigeria, but as usual, nothing was done” the statement signed by Falana, stated.
The coalition said even in the face of incompetence in handling the pandemic, the federal government has claimed that it has spent N31billion in four months.
ASCAB said the country is currently faced with diminishing test kits, lack of essential dedicated medicine, weak campaign strategy, bad leadership examples through the breaking of COVID-19 protocols by officials, denials by state governors and complete lack of a short and long term strategic National Action Plan to respond to the global scourge.
“Adherence to strict COVID-19 protocols has broken down due to a weak enforcement regime, poor leadership examples, disobedience of protocol by security officials and devotion of available health facilities to the service of the elite and their family members” ASCAB said.
ASCAB said poor people have no access to tests and treatment, adding that treatment and access to tests have become the monopoly of politicians, their friends and family members.
Falana said corruption is playing a leading role in the decline of national and state responses to the spread of the virus.
“Many people come into the country without adequate tests while certified medical certificates are being sold to the highest bidder. During the period of December, Nigeria had an irresponsible open door policy that allowed anybody to come into the country without any tests carried out at the points of arrival. The federal government responded by banning some people from travelling out of the country but nothing was done to monitor their movements to ensure compliance with the self -isolation directive,” ASCAB said.
ASCAB said the lack of effective control at the point of immigration may not be unconnected with the rising second wave. The coalition said that Nigeria has no structure of effective record of COVID-19 cases adding that less than 20 percent of Nigerian states conduct COVID-19 tests.
ASCAB said in its show of lack of knowledge, the Federal Government rolled out a February deadline for some 150 million Nigerians to obtain the National Identification Number, (NIN) forcing a stampede at the offices of the National Identity Management Commission, (NIMC) across the country. The exercise has led to the infection of some NIMC workers apart from millions of Nigerians that were deliberately put at arms way by their own government.