OPEN LETTER PMB ON COVID 19 BY CSOs
23rd April 2020.
President Muhammadu Buhari,
Federal Republic of Nigeria.
OPEN LETTER–COVID 19 INTERSTATE MOVEMENT LOCKDOWN AND RECOMMENDED FOLLOW UP MEASURES.
We, civil society groups under the aegis of the Nigeria Health Advocates which is a platform to mobilise community voices and efforts around public health issues and pandemics recognise the urgency of the decisions made by the State Governors as reflected by their recent agreement on 22 April 2020 to implement a 14 day interstate lockdown to contain the spread of the COVID 19 pandemic.
We also understand the significance of this move in the light of data and evidence indicating that people infected with COVID-19 virus are rapidly crossing State borders and contributing to increasing community transmission across the country.
While we commend the leadership of certain States who are working against all odds to increase testing and have commenced house to house screening initiatives, the effects of the epidemic are already evident in our weak and overwhelmed health systems.
Unfortunately, our frontline healthcare providers are on the receiving end of this and there is an urgent need to safeguard their lives by ensuring that they are well equipped with the needed Personal Protective Equipments and that stringent infection control measures are put in place across all our health facilities.
We are tired of ‘data politics’ going on in some States with high ranking health officials trying to downplay the number of cases or the magnitude of the problem. By downplaying the magnitude of the problem, States are only sitting on a quietly ticking time bomb. Just as our Governors have taken collective responsibility in restricting interstate movements, we urge them to do the same and promptly report cases in their States as they emerge so the needed technical support and assistance can be deployed.
We note however, that for this interstate lockdown to be effective the socio- economic impact of this epidemic on the Nigerian people also needs to be urgently prioritised by the Government. Already in States that have been on lockdown for over 3 weeks, we are witnessing incidences of security threats, unrests, robberies occurring as a result of this lockdown and there are valid concerns that this would be exacerbated if not addressed.
We therefore request that the following urgent actions be taken in order to cushion the effects of the lockdown:
1. State governments should prioritise the prompt delivery of palliative support to the most vulnerable(poor, economically disadvantaged, daily wage earners whose businesses have to be shut down etc) Nigerians through a coordinated approach with Local Governments, Ward Level, Community Leaders and the relevant Structures
2. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) put in place measures to ensure maximum testing during this lockdown period – vigorous house-to-house screening must commence across all States in order to ramp up the numbers being tested on a daily basis.
3. The Federal government engage the security agencies to ensure that the lockdown is effectively enforced (however, caution should be exercised to avoid human right violations and appropriate passes should be issued to individuals providing essential service to ensure ease of movement).
4. The Federal government and the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 should give clear guidance on the expected duration of the lockdown with regular updates on how progress being made to reverse the tide of the COVID-19 Pandemic provided by the State Governors.
5. The Federal and State governments enforce the wearing of face masks by all citizens in all public places and ensure that such masks can be accessed at subsided rates.
6. Ensure inclusion of representatives of Civil Society Organizations; Religious and Traditional Leaders; Media and Private Sector in all Covid-19 Taskforce and Committees at the Federal, State and Local Government levels.
• Chairman Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Covid-19.
• Nigeria Governors Forum.
• Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members of the National Assembly.
• Honourable Minister of Health.
• States Commissioners for Health.
• Christian Association of Nigeria.
• Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs.