…seeks systematic easing, relaxing of lockdown
The Federal Government and all the state governments across the country have been charged to mobilise resources to all local governments to ensure that massive Covid-19 testing is commenced as soon as possible and governments at all levels should be transparent with accurate data and reporting.
Giving the charge in a statement of assessment of the coronavirus pandemic in the country, Mr. Debo Adeniyi, the Executive Director and Global Sustainability Leader, at the Centre for Global Solutions and Sustainable Development, (CENGSSUD), noted that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had stated that a good strategy in curbing the Coronavirus is to improve and accelerate testing and reporting.
He added however that it has become evident that Nigeria’s Government through NCDC has been moving at a snail pace when it comes to testing.
“While a country like Ghana has tested over 100,000 people as of today, Nigeria has only managed to test about 10,918 people from the population of over 200 million people despite the imposition of 4-week lockdown in states like Lagos, Ogun, and Abuja, with many other states following the same route.
“With the above data and pace, it is clear that there will always be massive under-testing and gross under-reporting. Hence the need to rethink our strategy on the Lockdown order.”
While wondering what the lockdown by the Federal Government in some states and others by some state governments have achieved, Adeniyi said the essence of the lockdown with border closure ordered by the governments means that it will continue to do so with the option of extensions until the time that it has reached a certain satisfactory state that the spread of Covid-19 has been contained, curved, or on the nose-dived.
“The length of time required for such lockdowns to ensure effectiveness and satisfaction in arresting the spread would make it near impossible in a country like Nigeria where no sustainable palliative is in place and where social distancing in most places will remain impracticable.
“If the strategy is to lockdown until infections stop/significantly decline or so, then we might be waiting indefinitely as evident that the four weeks of lockdown only produced a spiraled increase in cases instead of decline. So, there is no evidence that further lockdown will reduce the figures of cases per day with the present social, environmental, and economic realities in our communities.
He therefore propose that the government should consider a easing and relaxing of the lockdown, saying, “Since it is evident that we cannot sustain lockdowns indefinitely or even until the spread stops/declines, I propose a gradual and strategic/systemic relaxed lockdown where the transport sector and businesses should be activated with guidelines and legislations to include compulsory use of Face masks in public places, sanitizers, maintenance of social distancing, increased education and awareness (posters, social media, electronics, and print media, etc), disinfection of all open markets and all public places, a limited number of passengers in public and private transportation and strict enforcement of same, personal hygiene at homes and offices, amongst others.
“Lifting of restriction of large gatherings should be in the second phase such as educational, religious, political, and social gatherings, also border lockdown restrictions and full economy restart should follow.”
He argued that in Nigeria unlike the advanced nations that have made good provisions for the people and businesses via “stimulus Package” with more direct intervention such as direct wage or income support, tax credits or tax deferrals, wage subsidies, short-term work schemes, moratoriums on loan payments and the establishment of a coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, where the government pays up to 60% of private-sector salaries until June, as long as workers are not sacked, as exhibited in countries like France, Denmark, UK, etc such are lacking.
“So as to reduce the negative impact on businesses and slow the rate of job loss, the US alone has deployed a US$2.2 trillion stimulus package which, the US Senate also just passed a bill for $484 billion “More Small-Business Stimulus”, including a $320 billion “Paycheck Protection Program” to enable small businesses to pay their staff salaries for two months. But what we have witnessed in Nigeria has been highly disappointing and unacceptable.
“Evidence has shown that the stimulus package by the federal and state governments in Nigeria are not effective, nor sustainable.
“The Federal and State Government in Nigeria has no financial or economic capacity to sustain Nigerians for a week lockdown let alone months of lockdowns. Lack of structure and data has also made it difficult for the governments in identifying the targets which are the vulnerable, old, and poor people, etc.
“We have also witnessed the politicized and lopsided distribution of the stimulus packages to Nigerians, the youths who constitute the largest population are largely cut-off from the stimulus package. Also, the announced stimulus, to a large extent, has not addressed the critical needs of businesses that will guarantee the sustainability and protection of jobs.”
He also advised that since the farming season is on that “we must ensure that the farmers get access to fertilizers and other inputs as soon as possible to avoid famine. Lockdowns during the planting season could threaten food security in months ahead and Inflation will shoot up in many cases. The government should also provide a safe, enabling, and secure environment for them in the distribution of their farm produce.
“It will also be imperative for the government at all levels to be more strategic and transparent in the administration of social welfare and palliatives distribution among the most vulnerable.
“Governments at all levels, private sectors, and other stakeholders should embrace sustainable solutions, sources, and begin the journey of transiting to a more digitalized and low-carbon economy,” he said.