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COVID-19: CHRICED Calls for Behaviour Change Among Nigerians, Tasks Government On Palliative Measures

As Nigeria grapples with the enormous task of containing the outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED) calls on citizens to come to terms with the enormity of the threat posed by this dreadful disease. Only a clear understanding of the dangers posed by COVID-19 will elicit the behaviour change needed to combat the dreaded virus. The global practice of adopting a whole of government, the whole of society approach to fighting the virus can only work if all sides unite. While government agencies such as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) continue with their commendable efforts to mount a national response to the outbreak, citizens need to do their part by not engaging in actions, which would escalate the number of cases. Importantly, our health workers who are on the frontlines confronting this challenge require the support of citizens in the form of taking preventive steps and adhering to laid down preventive protocol. Doing this would ensure our country’s ramshackle health facilities are not overwhelmed with too many cases.
This warning becomes critical because of dismissive attitudes many citizens still adopt in the face of the spread of the virus. For instance, it is a manifestation of lousy citizenship for those who had contact with the infected people to refuse to come forward for routine screening. It is equally reprehensible that some officials, especially legislators, are refusing to go ahead to be tested despite recently returning from high-risk countries. It is similarly quite alarming that many countrymen and women have continued to go about with an air of invincibility by latching on to unfounded claims that the disease cannot do them any harm. Such calm disposition, especially in response to directives for everyone to avoid large gatherings, do regular hand washing, and practice safe social distancing could become the recipe for serious disaster. We, therefore, urge citizens to listen and apply the information being passed across by authorities on specific steps to take to contain, and eventually defeat the virus.
Importantly too, CHRICED has been observing measures being put in place by governments, especially at the level of the states to prevent or contain the spread of the virus. The ban on large gatherings, and efforts to disinfect public places like what we see in Lagos, are commendable. However, CHRICED calls on governors not to see the enforcement of stay at home orders as an end itself. While it is suitable for citizens to remain at home until this pandemic is contained, governments must urgently consider palliative measures to make these stay at home orders realistic. This point is critical because many Nigerians earn their living from economic activities in the informal sector. There are many more fellow citizens who are unemployed or destitute. These groups of citizens make their daily bread literally by going out daily. For the slew of stay at home orders to be practical and realistic; therefore, the governments issuing them must follow up with the needed palliatives in terms of provision of food, water and other essentials.
CHRICED calls on the state governors to understand that it is not sufficient to issue those copycat orders for citizens to stay at home. This should be followed up with the provision of essentials to prevent a situation where citizens succumb to the pangs of hunger or malnutrition. Similarly, in many parts of this country, citizens hardly have access to potable water. Especially in rural areas, and even in the suburbs, residents have to move long distances to get access to drinking water. If the government is asking people in such areas to stay at home as part of the containment measure, it (the government) must necessarily take up the responsibility of supplying such residents with potable water.

Moreover, the financial resources for these kinds of expenditures can be legally taken from the public treasury. The outbreak of this pandemic is a real opportunity for governments across this country, from Federal, State to Local Governments to show that the lives and welfare of citizens matter. It is not only when the interest of politicians is at stake than public monies can be spent.
Finally, CHRICED calls on citizens, and the anti-corruption agencies to be on red alert to ensure prudence, transparency, accountability and value for money in the use of public funds set aside to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. We cannot assume the political elite will not abuse their control of these federal funds meant to fight COVID-19, especially given their antecedents. CHRICED, therefore, calls for vigilance, and close monitoring to ensure citizens are not short-changed.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
Comrade Dr. Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi
Executive Director

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