…Says no cause for alarm over reported effects of AstraZeneca vaccine
By Luminous Jannamike, ABUJA
The Kukah Centre has said that the security challenges in parts of North, caused by the activities of criminals and insurgents were made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the policy research institute, the spike in criminal activities and human rights abuses within local communities in the region since the pandemic began last year, was an indication that there were gaps in the Federal Government’s COVID-19 response strategy.
The Executive Director of The Kukah Centre (TKC) and Head of Secretariat, National Peace Committee, Fr. Atta Barkindo, stated this in Abuja, on Tuesday.
Barkindo, who spoke at the public presentation of the Centre’s project findings on ‘Mitigating the Impact of COVID-19 on Nigeria’s Most Vulnerable Communities Through Stakeholders’, also maintained that the sense of confusion generated by the pandemic posed threats to national security and stability.
The project was implemented in six states; Adamawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Plateau, and Sokoto with a view to sensitising at-risk communities about COVID-19 and to mitigate the impact on security.
The TKC Executive Director stated that Nigeria could not mitigate COVID-19 in the mixed context of insecurity and the culture of impunity among security agencies.
He, therefore, called for a multi-stakeholder approach to lessen the far-reaching effects of the pandemic, especially in local communities.
“There were two levels of insecurity that emerged during the COVID-19 lockdown. We discovered that in local communities, the issues of armed robbery, theft in people’s houses, stealing of foods and foodstuffs, the issue of raping of young girls and minors increased substantially.
“At the other level, in terms of the security forces deployed to maintain law and order and to ensure that the lockdown protocols were obeyed, some of them were accused of serious human rights abuses,” Barkindo said.
He submitted further that the attacks by Boko Haram and the ISWAP also resulted in palpable fear in many local communities, deterring the people from moving to towns where they could access COVID-19 testing and other health care services.
He said this was indicative of the fact that the government needed to review its approach and develop a new strategy for managing the pandemic.
Barkindo noted, “In addition, there were issues of terrorism and kidnapping that were going alongside these issues.
“We cannot mitigate COVID-19 in the context of insecurity. People could not go to the hospitals and testing centres, if they were going to be kidnapped along the way, robbed or taken and radicalised by the terrorists.
“So, these are really serious issues that The Kukah Centre is calling on the government to step-up on.”
On the rejection of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine by some countries and its implications for Nigeria, the Kukah Centre boss said: “There should be no need for people to be afraid. The pandemic is novel, and every country is still struggling to find a solution. So, we are testing… But, we must remain confident; trusting ourselves to see where the solution will come from.
“So, let’s wait and see if the consequences of using the vaccine will be the same between Nigeria and the other countries because the contexts are different and the countries are unique. Let us not rush and take the context of Europe and apply it to ourselves.”
On their part, TKC’s Programme Officer, Iguehi Omole-Irabor, and the Gender Desk Officer, Vicham Hajara Waziri, said in their respective report presentations that the impact of the pandemic on women and girls was also a thing of concern.
They also noted that gender mainstreaming, including the use of gender analysis and evidence, has been oftentimes lacking in government policies.
“The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic makes the need for more sensitisation urgent and necessary. Also, the government must develop strategies aimed at preventing gender-based violence as well as mechanisms of adequate gender policing and justice,” they said.