Nigeria is currently battling the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. So far, Delta State has some confirmed cases, according to information released by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). Nationally, the federal and state governments initiated various policy frameworks and actions to stem the spread of the virus. Some of the actions, including strict social distancing, has had a deleterious effect on the livelihoods. In Delta State and elsewhere, state security agents enforcing government-imposed social distancing restrictions have violated the human rights of citizens, resulting in avoidable deaths. It has become clear that the harsh government policies and pronouncements are inflicting more pain on the citizens, as there are no adequate measures in place to cushion the effects on the populace.
The Delta State Civil Society/Media COVID-19 Situation Room is a collaboration of organisations active in the state and convened by Social Action as an intervention to monitor and report on responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Situation Room will work closely with government agencies to combat the pandemic in the state and address livelihood and human rights issues during the period of emergency.
The objectives of the Situation Room includes:
- Monitoring of government policies and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic
- Monitoring of impacts of same on health and human rights of residents of Delta State.
- Monitoring of compliance with government policies and pronouncements
- Monitoring of the expenditure of the COVID-19 funds and other appropriation for this purpose.
The Delta State Civil Society/Media COVID-19 Situation Room is calling on the collaboration of the following agencies:
- Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)
- Delta State Taskforce on COVID-19
- Delta State Ministry of Health
- National Orientation Agency
- Nigerian Red Cross
- National Human Rights Commission
- Nigeria Police Force
- Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps
- Corporate organisations and charitable individuals, among others.
In Delta State, some significant events have come to our attention, and we have the following concerns and observations:
- In Delta State, citizens do not seem to understand the dangers of the Novel Coronavirus. Social distancing is still not practised in markets and other public and mass gatherings.
- The Situation Room has received reports alleging the arrest of persons by the State Government for the mere reason of expressing contrary opinions to government policies and actions with regards to handling the current pandemic.
- Delta State, as at this moment, does not have a Testing Centre. It is expected that by now, the State should have a Testing Centre in place while awaiting the one the Federal Government has promised to set up in each state of the federation.
- We commend the State Government for the Isolation Centres put in place in Asaba, Oghara and Warri. It is our considered opinion that those Centres are inadequate.
- The State food bank is a welcomed development and should be maintained.
- While we commend the palliative measures put in place by the federal and state governments, we wish to recommend that efforts should be made towards the effective and efficient distribution of these food items to the vulnerable in our society. We also think that there is still need for the State to perhaps be more aggressive in soliciting the support of organisations and well-meaning individuals as a way to increase the volume of the palliative items it can distribute. Most importantly; the government should find a more realistic formula to ensure that the items being made available gets to the targeted vulnerable persons. This is because trending public opinion on the palliatives distributed so far in the State is that not only were the items distributed inadequate, the distribution was perceived to have been done with political discrimination and other sentiments that diverted the palliatives away from the targeted groups.
- There are also reports that the palliatives meant for the very poorand most vulnerable (including the elderly) in our society are being shared in some parts of Delta State to only indigenes, leaving out the non-indigenes.
- In his last broadcast to the people of the Delta State, the State Governor announced that the state would distribute face masks to her citizens. This was welcomed as a laudable initiative, but the implementation is seen as unduly being delayed, considering the importance of the item in contending the spread of the deadly virus.
- It has also become evident that some of the measures adopted by the government to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic are inflicting survival challenges on the Citizens with the potentials of engendering criminality and associated vices. We, therefore, wish to recommend a review of those measures to deal with the noticed potential consequences of the measures.
- The standard for dealing with any case of Covid-19 when reported in any part of the state should be immediate isolation of the infected person, as well as contacts tracing. All traced contacts should be tested without undue delay. The frontline health workers at the designated hospitals for the management of patients with Covid-19 symptoms should be properly oriented and trained on how to handle the patients, and they should be well kited with the right medical PPE. They should be provided with the appropriate insurance cover. This measure will no doubt forestall the kind of shabby treatment alleged to have been mated on a recent patient of Covid-19 at the General Hospital, Warri.
Against the above backdrop, the Situation room hereby recommends the following as what to do moving forward:
- In the light of several reported cases of brutality and intimidation of citizens by security agents, and following the concern raised by the World Health Organization (WHO) that the Covid-19 pandemic could end up a human rights crisis, there is the need for the government to monitor closely the activities of the security officers assigned to enforce the lockdown order to curb the excesses of the officers.
- Reported cases of human rights violation, especially the shooting of peaceful protesters in Sapele and the killing of Mr Joseph Pessu in Warri should be seriously investigated, and perpetrators brought to book.
- All public places like Motor Parks, Markets, Shopping Malls, Super Markets as well as other places of mass gatherings like places of Religious Worship, Night Clubs & Hotels, Bars & Restaurants, Events Centres, Schools, factories etc. that are currently on shutdown should be fumigated to ensure that they are microbes free before their reopening.
- The ban on movement of persons in and out of our closed state borders should be sustained, more stringently enforced and compromising and erring officer should be sanctioned.
- Efforts should be made to establish more Isolation/Holding Centers and at least, a Testing Centre in Delta State.
- The State Government should hasten up and ensure that its promise to distribute face masks to the citizens is implemented without further delay.
- Citizens, on their part, should remain patient and endeavour to adhere to all directives aimed at eliminating the scourge of COVID-19.
We will overcome the virus pandemic, and our lives and society will return.
Co – Chair: Akpobome Rufus Ibebe, Youth Emancipation Movement of Africa
Co – Chair: Bonny Akaeze, Foundation For Non – Violent Social Change
Joint – Secretary: Joshua Ghereje, Social Action
Joint – Secretary: Emmanuel Agubi, Civil Rights Council, Ugheli
Spokesperson: Victor Ochie, Young Nigerian Rights Organisation
Convener: Social Action