…says relaxing lockdown will increase the spread of disease
…demands more 2 weeks; says govt has been sleeping one month ago
…Asks FG to set up functional testing centres before lifting the ban
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Just when Nigerians were about to leave for work following President Muhammadu Buhari’s order to relax the coronavirus pandemic lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and Federal Capital Territory, FCT last week, members of the Peoples Democratic Party Caucus in the House of Representatives have asked him to immediately rescind the decision.
The caucus said that opening the economy without adequate precautionary measures beyond hand washing and face masking was precarious, saying it will trigger the spread of the virus.
In a statement signed by the leader of the Caucus, Rep. Kingsley Chinda from Rivers State on Sunday in Abuja, the caucus said human life was sacrosanct and therefore paramount to any responsible individual, organization or government to preserve it.
It will be recalled that in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, President Muhammadu Buhari on March 30th 2020 with effect from 31st March, declared two weeks lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as part of measures to contain the spread of the dreaded virus.
However, following the increase in the number of cases in the States and the FCT, the lockdown order was extended by another two weeks to elapse on 3rd May, with gradual easing with effect from Monday 4th May.
To this end, the Federal Government directed that banks and government offices reopen for business.
Similarly, there was a directive from the office of the Head of Service of the Federation “that civil servants on grade levels 14 and above report and work three times weekly on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 8 pm-2pm daily while financial Institutions like banks announced the resumption of operations from Monday 4th May 2020.
Reacting to the development, Chinda said the decision was unfortunate, noting that the government went to sleep all the while without taking adequate protective measures.
He said “It is very apparent that the government is clearly more concerned about the economic benefits of reopening an already weak and ailing economy than the preservation of human life. This is without a doubt a very callous, insensitive and most unfortunate response by the Federal Government. The only plausible alternative to this is that the government has run out of ideas on what to do”.
“Furthermore, available evidence and statistics from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) show that Nigeria is far from winning the fight against Covid-19, as even within the lockdown, rather than reduce, the casualty rate and the number of those tested positive to the virus is increasing on daily bases.
“Clearly, this should be a matter of great concern to all reasonable and well-meaning persons, irrespective of political, religious or tribal affiliations and/or considerations.
“As a caucus in the House of Representatives, we are deeply worried about this and accordingly hereby express in very strong and unambiguous terms our utmost dismay, concern and total opposition to the stance of the Federal Government to prematurely relax and/or lift the lockdown order in the affected places earlier mentioned, and to hurriedly ask workers back to their offices, while the virus continues to ravage our people and our cities.
“We begin to wonder if the Government had no plans when it ordered the lockdown as lockdowns are not ordered for the fun of it but to curtail the spread and allow the government time to put in place policies and measures to be adopted in public places to check the further spread and manage the affected cases, whilst deploying equipment to different parts of the country and also carrying out the massive test, hoping that within 14 days incubation period that citizens are in isolation, most of the cases would be ripe, traced and managed.
“Unfortunately, while the lockdown was on, our government went to sleep on their core responsibilities and was busy mouthing palliatives without visible action taken.
“Also instructive to note is that whilst declaring a relaxation of the lockdown order, beyond the usual campaign on handwashing; use of hand sanitizers, facemasks and social distancing, the Federal Government obviously did not put in place any other effective measure designed to stop the spread of the dreaded virus.”
Chinda said the situation is unfortunate and unacceptable as the virus is likely to spread more beyond our imaginations.
“Already, the situation in Lagos and Kano States is scary. These cases and more are enough to cause us even greater anxiety and concern.
“We also take cognisance of the fact that the President Buhari led Federal Government would undoubtedly be failing very woefully in its responsibility of preserving the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) which he swore to defend and protect, which provides in Section 14(2) (b) that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government’.
“Equally important and compelling is the provision of Sections 17(3) (c) and (d) of the same Constitution. Whereas Section 17(3) (c) provides that the State shall direct its policy towards ensuring that “the health, safety and welfare of all person in employment are safeguarded and not endangered or abused’, Section 17 (3)(d) provides that the State shall direct its policy towards ensuring that “there are adequate medical and health facilities for all persons.
“Incidentally, over 6 weeks of the pandemic, there is no clear government policy for public places like markets; workplace; public transport etc. Medical facilities are very inadequate. The several States have no test centres and received no support whatsoever from the Federal Government despite humongous sums spent so far, both from public coffers and donations from individuals and organisation.
“It is somewhat difficult, obviously very surprising and disturbing to decipher the genuine reason behind the Federal Government’s sudden decision to relax the lockdown order in the midst of the prevailing and ravaging Covid-19 pandemic.
“Taking into cognisance the experience of other countries where lockdown was prematurely relaxed.
Commends State govt, NGF
“We commend the attitude and stance of the various State governments and the Nigerian Governors Forum in taking clear and decisive actions in the fight against Covid-19 in their respective States, and more importantly for the proactive stand of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF to contain the spread of the virus in their domain.
The caucus’ major demands
“In the circumstances, the PDP caucus of the House of Representatives demands as follows:
“That President Buhari rescinds his decision to relax the lockdown order and allow the lockdown to remain operational for another 14 days from Monday-4th May 2020 to end 18th May 2020.
“Within the extended period come up with clear public policies (covering Markets; Offices; Factories; public transport; etc) to be adopted for containment of the spread of the virus.
“Set up functional testing Centers in all the States of the Federation and FCT.
“Distribute very equitably all necessary kits to all the States and FCT
“Make available the promised palliatives and distribute same equitably to all the States and FCT.
“That the Federal govt shows genuine interest and commitment in getting Universities and Research Institutes more involved in the search for a solution”.