Today’s Headline Feature
Nigerian governments – at all tiers – are throwing considerable financial, human and material resources in desperate moves to keep the dreaded Covid-19 disease from further spreading and causing more devastation to lives and means of livelihoods in the country. A number of States has already imposed lockdowns, at the time that the federal government is concentrating major efforts at curtailing the threat in three places, namely, Lagos and Ogun States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Is this fight succeeding? It’s too early to judge, especially as the numbers have not flattened but continue to progressively increase with each day’s report from the Nigeria Centre for Diseases Control (NCDC).
Are there factors that are hindering the efforts to contain the spread? Definitely. Here are 10 of the factors that constrain a robust fight to contain the Coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria as at today 26 April 2020.
Issue #1: Elite Conspiracy Theories Promoting Panic
Too many conspiracy theories are being woven around the disease, including the most vicious which is an unfounded linkage of 5G cause of 5G network to Coronavirus. Although these theories are being strenuously demolished as fabrications, quite a number of persons believe them and use the false information to embark on actions that are clearly forbidden by the health authorities. What makes the issue troubling is that authority persons – such as religious leaders with almost cult-like following (e.g. Pastor Chris Oyakhilome) – have taken to the social and mainstream media to lend a voice to these conspiracies.
Issue #2: Fake News Fueling Dangerous Mistakes
Unfortunately, it is not only in the United States that fake news is confusing people and giving rise to untested self-medication and home treatment. The social media in Nigeria is replete with stories of those who allegedly contracted Covid-19 disease and successfully “killed” it at home using local herbs or other remedies. More than half of these unscientific prescriptions are wrong and, as is the case with chloroquine, could actually worsen a person’s condition rather than ameliorate it. SOLUTION: Become aware of the age-old dangers of self-medication and be properly guided in recommending anything to a friend or loved one. As the Governor of Anambra State said yesterday, “Covid-19 is not a death sentence” and there is no need to panic and make mistakes.
Issue #3: Playing Politics with a Deadly Enemy
Both federal and state authorities have been complicit in this, first by allowing the virus to creep into Nigeria from abroad, and second, by using politics to further its spread. Politicians elected into offices with an eye on the next election are offering half-hearted measures that will end up worsening the case should the virus creep into their territory. In many instances, they have relaxed lockdown rules for religious gatherings or other significant social activities. States such as Rivers, Kano, and Ebonyi, to mention three, have permitted Christian and Muslim Groups to congregate and worship together during religious festivals. Such actions have the potential to increase group transmission, health authorities have warned.
Issue# 4: Hunger Among the Population
Analysts, including eMetro News, had repeatedly warned federal and state governments to plan on how the poor and vulnerable can have food to eat if a lockdown were to be imposed on them. Although governments recognize this imperative, economic considerations may have played a part in making this impossible to implement. The little food that is given to different groups do not go a long way. Although people dutifully went indoors to flatten the virus dispersal curve, they were soon driven out by hunger; majority feed from hand-to-mouth, depending on daily wages for their sustenance. Videos of cases of looting and daylight theft of essential commodities from stationary and moving vehicles have been shared on social media. This situation leads to comingling in the population and poses a danger of community transmission.
Issue #5: Inconsistent and Unenforced Govt. Policies
Linked to Issue #4 above, Federal and State Governments appear not to have thought the situation through before imposing clampdowns on citizens to stay indoors. The result is that citizens desperate to survive have found creative ways of breaching the lockdown directives. Transporters desperate to make some money to feed create motor parks within the boundaries of state governments from where people cross from one state on foot and are crowded into vehicles that move freely around the state. These actions make it impossible to implement social distancing requirements as well as curb cross-border movements to end up further propagating the disease.
Issue #6: Ignorance and Lack of Discipline
A combination of ignorance and lack of discipline has continued to endanger citizens and residents. Ignorant youths – and adults sometimes – look askance at the dangers of the disease. Some go beyond doubting its existence to demonstrate their ignorance by embarking on dangerous actions. Typical examples are youths who were seen drinking ablution water and boasting that Coronavirus is a hoax. In many public places, people can still be seen shaking hands, slapping themselves on the back and embracing themselves in public, a surefire way to quicken the virus transmission, from those who have to those that do not.
Issue #7: States Not Collaborating and Coordinating
Because of different approaches and seriousness attached to the battle by different state actors, it has been difficult to get the sort of coordinated responses from State Governments to curtail the spread of Covid-19 in Nigeria. States have also found it impossible to agree on a common strategy to approach the fight to curtail the spread of the virus in Nigeria. The recent virtual meeting of Nigerian Governors however recognized this lapse. Hopefully, the governors will follow through with their agreement to install a coordinated approach that will make it easy to stop cross-border transmissions so that the virus can be tracked within each boundary and dealt with.
Issue #8: Policies Based on Fear of Oil Price Volatility
Allocations to the Covid-19 fight are limited because of financial squeeze. There is no doubt that the state of the economy has played a central role in the quality of responses both from the Federal and the State governments. Because an overwhelming majority of States in Nigeria depend on federal allocations for survival, and federal allocations depend on earnings from crude oil and gas exports whose prices are at best volatile, most state Governors are humbled at this time when they see how the economic projections are being shot to pieces by tumbling oil prices. They have no choice but to do the best they can to allocate resources for priority projects, including payment of workers salaries. Only a few states have been able to pay April 2020 salaries to date, for instance. This has impacted responses to Covid-19 in various negative ways.
Issue #9: Non-Private Sector Interface
Most State Governments in Nigeria have hitherto looked down on industries, preferring to see them either as cash cows to be mercilessly milked through taxation or as competitors to be conquered in the effort to appeal to the same people that they are approaching, either as consumers or as voters. This unfortunate and persistent error of judgement in not treating industries as partners in socio-economic development of their states, has now fully manifested in many states where the Governors are finding it a hard pill to swallow by going to “beg” for money from people that they had hitherto shown absolute disdain. It is almost as if these Governors forget that public service workers constitute less than 10 percent of the population and that the private sector takes care of the balance of 90 percent of employed persons. The lack of prior interface and respect for private sector players has caught some State Chief Executives flatfooted and made it difficult for them to mobilize funds they need to deal with the threat of Coronavirus.
Issue #10: Security Lapses
The social media is awash with trending videos of security agents allegedly distorting the lockdown gains by seeking gratifications to allow individuals to breach various rules imposed by state authorities. Since they own the responsibility for enforcement of the lockdown directives, and since people are being given the impression that a lockdown directive can be breached by bribing the enforcers, there are claims that virus transmission continues unchecked as people go about their daily business and bribe their way through.
Do you have any other factor that have slowed down or breached the regulations and orders meant to contain the spread of the Coronavirus in Nigeria? Scroll to the end below to leave a comment.
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