The Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) has condemned the extension of the lockdown order by President Muhammadu Buhari. The president had called for an extension to fight the COVID-19 pandemic on Saturday, but PRP said that Buhari did not take into consideration the country’s existential realities.
The opposition party stated this on Sunday in a statement by its National Chairman, Alhaji Falalu Bello, titled “Playing Nero While Nigeria Burns.”
The party was responding to a statement issued on behalf of the President by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, wherein the President said that “Nigerians must continue to observe restrictions on movement where they are in place for as long as our scientific advisers declare they are necessary.”
The statement reads partly: “The Peoples Redemption Party [PRP] has received with consternation and utter disappointment, yesterday’s Presidential statement to the Nigerian public by President Muhammadu BuharI [GCFR] confirming the indefinite continuation of lockdowns that governments [both Federal and States] have imposed on most Nigerian cities and States purportedly as a reaction to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
“The presidential statement, which was released to the public by the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, stated amongst other things that:
“(i) Nigerians must continue to observe restrictions on movement where they are in place for as long as “our scientific advisers declare they are necessary”,
“(ii) Government has made “multiple” arrangements to assist the most vulnerable amongst the citizenry with, for instance, the distribution of 70, 000 tonnes of grain which is to be released “from the National Strategic Grain Reserve” and the distribution of small cash payments, and
“(iii) That since there is no known cure yet for the disease, Nigeria shall not wait for help from elsewhere but end this “outbreak ourselves as Nigerians together”.
“The consternation and disappointment of the PRP with President Buhari’s statement arises basically from three critical considerations.
“Firstly, from his statement, the President appears not to understand and appreciate the futility and ineffectiveness of lockdowns as a panacea for the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in an economic and social environment such as ours.
“Nigeria Covid-19 response strategy with terms such as aggressive enforcement of total lockdown, flattening of the curve, contact tracing, self-isolation, etc, is a very good strategy on paper but has been drawn in total disregard to our environment and circumstances.
“Complete lockdown for example may be useful and effective in developed economies and societies as exist in Europe and North America. But in our own environment where infrastructure such as housing, public transportation, sanitation and water supply are at best rudimentary, a wholesale copy of the lockdown template as a strategy against the COVID-19 pandemic is as good as playing the ostrich.
“Self-Isolation as another example in most of our houses in our towns and cities where tens of families stay in a house with only a toilet and tap is neither possible nor practicable. The Covid-19 Strategy sold to our President and his Governors is alien to our circumstances, not practicable nor sustainable and should be urgently jettisoned.
“Secondly, the President’s statement betrays a complete failure to understand that the COVID-19 pandemic is not just a health emergency but more appropriately a multi-sectoral challenge, with grave implications and threats to not just the public health but the livelihoods of citizens.
“So, to depend, as the President says he is going to do, only on the advices of the “scientific advisers” for the determination of whether and when to lift the restrictions on movements, is to say the least, most ill-advised.
“As experts in similar climes as ours have argued, complete lockdowns in and by themselves cannot and will not solve the challenges that COVID-19 has unleashed.
“Indeed, the lockdowns themselves may even compound and worsen the incidence of both contagion and spread by, for instance, weakening the immune system through worsening malnutrition, the herding together of masses of people in congested residential spaces which is what you find in most of our cities and towns, and the overstretching of rudimentary health-care facilities and infrastructures.
“Thirdly, President Buhari’s Statement convinces us of the Government’s utter disregard and lack of appreciation of its own low executive capacity. For the President to talk and promise that the Administration is going to distribute lockdown palliatives to the most vulnerable, who largely live from day to day in the interstices of the informal sector of the economy, in the face of gross bungling of the government’s initial efforts in this direction, only goes to betray this disregard of existential realities.
“The Nigerian government [both Federal and States] lack the executive capacity to do these in a transparent and effective manner. To begin with, the database that will be used to determine who qualifies for such an intervention and support is just simply not there.
“Furthermore, the executive capacity to execute the distribution in an equitable, fair and even- handed manner has simply been shown not to exist. These have been seen in almost all the States that gave out palliatives to their citizens as well as the fairy tale distribution of N20,000.00 each to 2.6million Nigerians in 4 days by the Federal Government which most people don’t believe.”
The opposition went ahead to call for a review of the lockdow and stay at home order, and other strategies by the federal and state governments to combat and contain spread of the virus in order to come up with more effective approaches that would make more impact.
“In these circumstances, the Peoples Redemption Party [PRP] calls on the Federal and State governments to urgently review the strategies they have so far adopted to confront the COVID-19 pandemic with a view to fashioning out more effective, appropriate and sustainable approaches to managing the Coronavirus challenge. In more specific terms, the PRP calls on those public institutions to consider adopting the following responses amongst others;
“(i) review the lockdown orders restricting movements with a view to relaxing them to allow citizens to go about earning their livelihoods in an orderly and supervised manner,
“(ii) procure, subsidize and massively distribute face masks to the public and make the wearing of these compulsory in public spaces until the pandemic is over;
“(iii) urgently procure testing kits and make them widely available so that members of the community with individuals suspected of showing symptoms of the disease can have easy access for testing;
“(iv) invest massively in the medical infrastructure and training for contact tracing of confirmed cases, their isolation and treatment, as well as the provision of protective gear for health worker;,
“(v) immediately prepare stimulus packages for sectors of the national economy which are going to be worst affected by the pandemic in the coming months, such as small-holder agriculture, small and medium enterprises, operators in the informal sectors of the economy and selected strategic industries;
“(vi) reopening of the public services while maintaining social-distancing in the work-place and commercial operations;
“(vii) stop the wasteful if not fraudulent texting by NCDC reported to have cost the Government over a billion Naira and divert such scarce resource to building the much required testing centres in and out of towns and cities;
“(viii) immediately probe the fairy tale distribution of N20,000.00 each to 2.6 million Nigeria and in 4 days as a means of confirming what happened and as important strengthening the distribution capacity of the Ministry of Humanitarian Services and Disaster Management before engaging them to handle further distribution of palliatives to the needy Nigerian population; and
“(ix) eliminate police and military brutality coming from the enforcement of the lockdowns reported to have cut across the nation, doing more harm than COVID-19 and resort to counselling and even fine as seen in the jurisdictions we have borrowed our COVID-19 strategy.”
The party also made reference to the 2nd World War, in which it claimed over 80 million people died, and how it impacted negatively on Germany’s economy as Germans ate from the garbage, hence the total crash and collapse of its economy in 1930.
“A broken economy which may follow naked lockdowns as we are witnessing without adopting appropriate measures in the midst of small arms that are in the hands of lawless citizens, may result in another Germany in Nigeria because of our huge population. Mr. President please save our people eating from the dust bins.
“Finally, it is our belief in the PRP that for President Buhari to continue with the present fixture of lockdown and restriction of movements in the face of the overwhelming evidence that point to the inappropriateness in our specific circumstances and social realities, would be tantamount to playing fiddle while Rome burns!”, the party warned.
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