The Nigerian opposition coalition after receiving credible health intelligence and having researched into the reported planned lifting of the lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun States, consulted health experts , conducted a detailed survey, analyzed the pattern of spread since the imposition of the initial lockdown and reviewed the guidelines for the lifting released by the Presidential Taskforce, has rejected the decision by President Buhari led Federal Government to lift the lockdown without putting in place measures that can control the growing rate of infections.
Nigerians will recall that following the address by the President on the 27th April, 2020 we had immediately stated that the opposition received the announcement of the proposed lifting of the lockdown with reservation pending the study and research by our experts. Based on the outcome of the efforts, we have come to this unimpeachable conclusion that what Nigeria rather needs now is a national lockdown and not lifting of the partial lockdown. This is fundamentally because like we had highlighted in previous statements, a lockdown on its own without complementary action was not going to achieve much. The statistics of the pandemic today justifies this position of ours.
Nigeria is one of the countries with least testing capabilities, Fellow countrymen can you imagine that with all the media noise and volume of money spent including loans and donations been taken and received left and right by President Buhari government and our dear country Nigeria with a population of over 200m has tested only 12,800 and i repeat 12 ,800 citizens from 27th February, 2020 the day the index coronavirus testing was positive, till date with an approximate of two thousand infections while our neighbour Ghana with less population has tested 120,000 people with around same 2000 infections, South Africa tested 210,000 people, Egypt 100,000, morocco 40,000 etc and with this weak performance, how can Nigeria test people when lockdown is lifted with probability of more infection?
The NCDC is talking of running out of testing kits and talking of no bed space even with little case of 2000 reported infections, infection of doctors has moved from 40 to over 100 in days and the President’s only remedy is to be watching his TV be waiting for news of foreign vaccine to be made because he has no idea or has the capacity to even try to develop home remedies like Senegal and Madagascar, and you want to allow such a man open the gates for people to roam the street because he ruined the economy and squandered the palliative that would have kept people at home.
In view of section 14 of our constitution ,Of what use is he being president apart from issuing edited and prerecorded speech whenever it suits him. The true test of leadership is here staring us in the face. No money, no economy, no attempt to assemble our doctors and local herbal experts to try something. Even those trying to develop local vaccine are not getting attention . The president prefers us to wait till our former slave masters develop something as usual. Nigerians be careful as you come out, because the worst can happen now as the health institutions and strategies Buhari put out are weak. That is why we are not comfortable with the plan to officially open the lockdown and allow people move in crowds with no capacity to handle the possible fall-out.
We hereby declare that President Buhari’s lifting of the lockdown without complementary action cannot achieve the targeted aim of revamping the economy as the virus will painfully and unfortunately spread again and thereby force the government to shut down again and this time under dire circumstances.
Fellow countrymen, we know it is hard but the APC government led us to this hard spot. They wasted over ten trillion in revenue and borrowed funds and could not bail the economy hence everybody’s pocket went empty within 24hrs of lockdown because the economy was already dead. The little left they hid under palliative to take it away. It is not our fault that we had leaders who came to change and indeed changed us into poverty capital of the world, broke down our security in all parts of the country, and divided us on ethnic and religious ground but let’s not allow them use incompetence in handling our current health challenge to kill us.
We pose the following questions to guide citizens to see where the incompetence of this government is leading the nation;
- Who will enforce distancing in danfo buses in Lagos, Elrufai buses in Abuja and Mararaba?
- Who will control crowd and enforce social distancing in Balogun market and other large markets?
- Who will enforce mask wearing among millions of Nigerians in these States who will throng into the streets?
- Who will provide mask or give money to Almajirai, poor people, illiterate people etc to buy mask?
- Who will stop corrupt police officers and other compromised security personnel who will turn to collecting bribe to allow buses overload, and for people not wearing mask to go free
- Does the NCDC have the test centres, kits and personnel for such pressure that will come with lockdown lifting?
The questions are legion. Hence we reject the planned move to allow people to return to the streets when the level of indiscipline, corruption and desperation to make money is high while capacity for crowd control and relevant institutions are also weak.
We have also looked at the case of Ghana, Germany and other jurisdictions that lifted the lockdown earlier than they should have and the virus infection spiked. Ours is a nation with weak health infrastructure because the APC did not buy even paracetamol or build any hospitals or invest in health research, hence prevention of the spread of this disease is our best module.
Upon the lifting of the lockdown, people will troop out in large numbers. If some businesses are allowed to open, what will happen to other closed businesses? How can the surge be controlled? Instead of grandstanding, government should be bold to tell the people its incapacities and admit its failure even during the lockdown and not rely on false optimism to plunge the country into more problems.
The pressure to lift the lockdown was caused by the suffering of the people and level of poverty caused by a regime which turned COVID-19 response into another looting jamboree with several billions of dollars spent and nothing tangible reaching the people which necessitated the pressure from the people to return to work, a move that will be too early and counterproductive.
Rethink this Mr. president, you are not ready for a lockdown lifting, you failed to enforce last lockdown because you led a police force that have many corrupt officers , destroyed the economy and frittered away the palliative, now you want to cover your inability to provide palliative which would have helped people and businesses to remain at home and shut down, now you are bowing to the pressure of our people you have visited hunger on and opening the gate for more trouble that will lead to more infection and possible mass death.
The lessons from the Great Plague of Marseille of 1720 must not be forgotten. The pressure from the people was due to the failure of government to do the right things but pretended to bow to pressure of people. This is exactly what this government is doing. Hospitals in Lagos are already overwhelmed and there is shortage of bed spaces same will soon happen in Kano, FCT and Borno, Gombe. If there is a spike, how will the victims be cared for? When that unfortunate time comes, the President will not remember the economy. The Great Plague of Marseille is a huge warning to governments never to prioritize the “economy” ahead of human lives and public health. It can be a very costly mistake.
Also Nigeria has at least 113 health workers already infected. It shows that the medical manpower for the fight has already been greatly reduced. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has within the availability of its resources done its best and commendably too but has obviously shown that it has been overwhelmed because it does not have the capacity for aggressive testing, contact tracing, isolation and treatment. The sheer number of figures putting more pressure on the NCDC will make the situation worse hence lifting the lockdown now will compound the challenges.
After extensive investigation and review of information at our disposal, facts show that government has not put in place any sustainable sensitization or proper machinery in motion to curtail the spread of the virus after the lockdown lifting. The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control testing ability has not been properly strengthened to handle mass infections that will come out from spread if lockdown is lifted, the enforcement has not improved as men of the police are still collecting bribe to allow defaulters to move on across states or extorting them, the use of masks have not been made legally compulsory to allow for prosecution or punitive action against defaulters, the access to masks by poor people or less privileged who will be thronging public places, buses and markets have not been put in place, and in view of that we the opposition wish to warn that we do we not subscribe to nationwide lifting of the lockdown with weak health measures which cannot handle a viral spread.
Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere
Opposition Coalition (CUPP) Spokesperson