The Impact of COVID-19 on Persons Living with a Disability and Orphaned Children

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Mr Kie Obomanu, the chairman of Persons Living with a Disability in Rivers State

By Mercy Tochi Christopher

 

It is no more headline news that COVID-19 has upended lives around the world, creating disruptions in almost every aspect of the society and exacerbating existing pressures. For people living with a disability and orphaned children, however, the outbreak has multiplied the pre-existing challenges they face as vulnerable members of the society, making them more vulnerable to contracting the virus and to the adverse impacts associated with the outbreak.

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DISBAND NDDC’S LEADERSHIP NOW – CSOs, Communities charge President Buhari

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Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) from within and outside the Niger Delta region, in conjunction with representatives of various communities in the region, have called for a total change of leadership in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC. They made the call at a virtual roundtable with the theme: POSITION DIALOGUE ON THE NDDC, which was convened by Social Development Integrated Centre (SOCIAL ACTION) and the African Centre for Media, Information and Literacy (AFRICMIL) on Friday, 17th July, 2020. The meeting was held in the light of events at the NDDC, ranging from allegations of contract frauds and fiscal recklessness, to Procurement law infractions, audit violations, cronyism, non-budgetary and extra-budgetary spending, and extensive disregard to procedural rules.

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Petrol Pump Price Hike Amid Failing Economy: An Ill-Timed Policy

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THEMATIC REPORT

Written by Lucas Nwachukwu

On Wednesday, July 1, 2020, the Federal Government of Nigeria announced the sudden increase in the pump price of petrol by over ₦20. A litre of fuel will now sell between ₦140.8 and ₦143.8 at retail stations across the country, up from the previous ₦121.50 and ₦123.50 band. The increase was sequel to the recommendations given to the Federal Government by the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) which is responsible for fixing the price of petroleum products in the country. According to the PPPRA Executive Secretary, Abdulkadir Saidu, “After a review of the prevailing market fundamentals in the month of June and considering marketers’ realistic operating costs, as much as practicable, we wish to advise a new PMS pump price band of ₦140.80 – ₦143.80 per litre, for the month of July 2020.” It could be recalled that the PPPRA had on May 31, 2020, announced a new pump price band that would be ₦121.50 to ₦123.50 per litre, a decision which was informed by the crash in the price of crude oil at the global market due to the ravaging impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is therefore ill-timed and preposterous, the recent increase to ₦140.80 – ₦143.80 of the pump price of petrol, at a time when oil prices are making a remarkable comeback after falling to a record low in April, as a barrel of crude oil now sells for between $39.81 and $42.27 at the international market.

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COVID-19: Akwa Ibom CSO Situation Room demands Transparency and Accountability, as the State faces community transmission

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Governor Udo Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State

AKWA IBOM REPORT

The Civil Society Organisation Forum in Akwa Ibom State under the auspices of the CSO Situation Room has called on the State Government to account for the COVID-19 intervention funds which it has so far, received. According to the CSO Network, the demand was made in the interest of promoting transparency and accountability in the management and utilisation of public resources, as well as building public trust. It noted that the Akwa Ibom State Government has an obligation to make public every source of funding, received with respect to the COVID-19 outbreak to help the State respond effectively to the scourge and curtail its impacts. But till date, the government has failed to disclose this very important information to the public. The State Government had earlier disclosed that the State had spent One Billion Naira in fighting COVID-19, but no further detail was given with regards to how the funds were sourced and expended.

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Violation of human rights by OSPAC vigilante group in Rivers State

OSPAC

RIVERS STATE REPORT 

The ONELGA Security Peace and Advisory Council, popularly known as OSPAC, has been accused of illegally detaining and torturing innocent persons in Rivers State, on suspicion of being connected to cultism and kidnapping in the State. There have been several reports of human rights violations perpetrated by members of OSPAC, a vigilante group set up in 2016 at Omoku, capital of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni LGA (ONELGA) in Rivers State. The civilian militia group which was brought into existence, following the increase in crime rate and the failure of the state security agencies to successfully tackle the insecurity, has since expanded to other parts of the State including Emohua and Ikwerre LGAs. The Social Development Integrated Centre, Social Action, in collaboration with the Civil Rights Council (CRC), have noted that the mode of operation of OSPAC included the arrest, detention and torture of persons suspected to be cultists or criminals. However, many persons have been wrongly arrested, detained and treated in an inhumane and degrading manner by the civilian militia. This deliberate violation of the presumption of innocence of an accused person, constitutes an abuse of human rights and a violation of Section 36(5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) which states that an accused person shall be deemed innocent until proven guilty. Sadly, not much attention has been paid to the illegal activities of OSPAC by security agencies in the State.

CRC reports that in May 2020, some men of the OSPAC invaded Isiokpo in Ikwerre LGA and arrested innocent youths and Ogoja labourers who were returning from the farm. Those arrested were subjected to inhumane treatments, including physical torture and starvation. On June 7, 2020, it was reported that men of OSPAC stormed Isiokpo and arrested innocent citizens who were going about their lawful duties, while acting on a tip-off that some members of a criminal gang were taking refuge in the community. Innocent persons were allegedly arrested alongside some confirmed members of the criminal syndicate. It was further learnt that the leadership of OSPAC and several community groups have expressed their support for the crude methods deployed by OSPAC and deemed such human rights violations, a necessary evil, in order for kidnapping to be stopped and peace restored to the communities. It is widely believed that their extra-judicial methods, despite being against the fundamental principles of human rights, produce the desired results. Hence, the human rights violations could be condoned in the interest of maintaining security. It has been accepted by several communities where OSPAC operates, that human rights abuse and unwarranted arrest of innocent citizens cannot be ruled out in such operations.

Social Action decries the wrongful normalisation of human rights violations as a sad commentary, resulting from the systemic failure of the government to provide security and the decades of communal wars, violence and inhumane, degrading treatment meted out on people extra-judicially. Several community folks regard violence, jungle justice and extra-judicial killings as immediate punishment to be justifiably meted out on suspected criminals, without recourse to a proper trial by a court of law. They fail to avert their minds to the rule of law which stands to protect innocent citizens. This ugly trend, if not urgently checkmated, could lead to an extra-judicial killing of people, reminiscent of the horrific incident which occurred in Rivers State in 2012, involving four students of UNIPORT, popularly called ALUU 4, who were tortured and lynched in Aluu community over wrongful allegations made against them for which they weren’t allowed their rights to a fair trial.

Social Action and CRC therefore call on the Rivers State Government to immediately bring an end to the violation of human rights perpetrated by OSPAC. Rather than turn a blind eye to the impunity and lawlessness demonstrated by members of OSPAC in addressing insecurity in the State, the State Government may wish to legitimately adopt the group as a State-owned vigilante group via the instrumentality of a law which must be duly passed by the Rivers State House of Assembly. In addition, there ought to be an adequate and regular training of all members of OSPAC. OSPAC must be made to complement the efforts of the Police, and not replace the Police. Arrested persons suspected to be criminals, should be handed over to the Police for proper investigation and prosecution, if deemed necessary. OSPAC as a group, must not be allowed to continue as a law on to itself, as such impunity, in addition to the human rights abuse, could lead to extra-judicial killings and communal clashes, given the fragile peace and volatility of some communities in the State.

Borno Women Receive Support For Improved Livelihoods Through Agriculture

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GREENCODE and Social Action commence training on micro-agriculture for women affected by conflicts in Jere, Maiduguri Metropolitan Council (MMC) and Konduga LGAs of Borno State

 

BORNO STATE REPORT

Against the backdrop of severe drought occasioned by climate change, coupled with the destruction of homes and farmlands induced by the Boko Haram insurgency in parts of Borno State, the Green Concern for Development (GREENCODE) and Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action) have launched an initiative for the development of sustainable livelihoods of displaced populations through agriculture. The intervention project which is aimed at devising ways of ensuring food security and protecting the livelihoods of those gravely-affected by the ecological impacts of global warming and related conflicts, is supported by the Development for Peace (Caritas Canada). GREENCODE and Social Action have commenced a Training programme on micro-agriculture, for women in conflict-affected communities within Jere, MMC and Konduga LGAs, as part of efforts at addressing the prevailing challenges to livelihood which have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic in Borno. The Training which kicked off on the 26th of June, 2020, showcased practical lessons on micro-gardening, as well as processes involved in the making of sanitisers and liquid soap. A total of 40 women making up the first set of trainees, were in attendance at the Training. The capacity-building project is expected to be a continuous engagement which will include follow-up activities with beneficiaries and other stakeholders in the food security sector.

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World Bank’s $750 Million Credit and the need to drive productivity in Nigeria’s chaotic Power sector

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Electric Power Transmission Substation

THEMATIC REPORT

                                                                                                Written by Lucas Nwachukwu

Many Nigerians have reacted with skepticism to the approved $750 Million International Development Association (IDA) credit made by the World Bank for Nigeria’s Power sector Recovery Operation (PSRO), said to be aimed at improving electricity supply in the country. The recurring question is centred on how the $750 Million would be put to judicious use. According to the World Bank, about 47% of Nigerians do not have access to grid electricity and those who do have access, face regular power cuts. In addition, the economic cost of power shortages in Nigeria is estimated at about $28 Billion, equivalent to 2% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Despite the privatisation of Nigeria’s Power sector in 2013, during the Goodluck Jonathan administration, the country has failed to achieve a consistent and reliable supply of electricity. In the past and even presently, there have been enormous promises made to address Nigeria’s unreliable energy supply and power needs. Huge investments have been made in the sector which still lies in shambles. Nigeria, with its expanding economy, has one of the widest energy gaps in the world. Power production falls short of demand, which constitutes a primary constraint on the nation’s economic growth.

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COVID-19: Delta CSO Situation Room condemns closure of hospitals; recommends regular decontamination

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Empty hospital ward

DELTA STATE REPORT


The coalition of Civil Society groups in Delta State, under the auspices of the CSO Situation Room, hereby calls on the Delta State Government to reverse the closure of some hospitals across the State, over the suspicion that some persons suspected to be COVID-19 patients were harboured in those hospitals. The CSO Situation Room also calls on Local Government Councils in the State, to open up all hospitals that have been sealed off by the Councils for similar reasons, bordering on the suspected exposure of the hospitals and their staff to the coronavirus disease.

Within the last three weeks, several hospitals were shut down in the State for providing medical attention to suspected COVID-19 cases. The Ughelli North LGA Council shut down a primary healthcare centre indefinitely, following reports that there were suspected cases of COVID-19 at the hospital. The Council in a statement dated June 22, warned that Ughelli North LGA has recorded a spike in the number of confirmed cases in the LGA. Hence, all healthcare centres in the LGA were warned to desist from treating suspected COVID-19 cases or stand the risk of being sealed off. Similarly, the Delta State Ministry of Health sealed off the building of a private hospital in Sapele, where two ill persons suspected to be COVID-19 patients were harboured. The hospital was reportedly sealed off because it lacked the capacity to treat suspected COVID-19 patients who rightly, should have been referred to any of the 11 Isolation centres across the State. For the same reason, some units of the Ughelli Central Hospital have been shut down indefinitely by the government.

However, despite the need to deploy all lawful means necessary to curb the hike in the number of confirmed cases in the State which currently stands at 912 as of June 28, 2020, the government must not fail to assess holistically, the public health risks posed by the closure of hospitals at a time when the State is faced with a public health emergency. While it is deemed appropriate to shut down places that provide non-essential services such as hotels, restaurants, etc, when they violate the State’s guidelines on the prevention of the spread of COVID-19, the same cannot be said of places that render essential services to the people, such as hospitals. Notwithstanding the pervasive nature of the novel coronavirus in the State, there are several other patients who are in need of medical attention for various ailments, other than the coronavirus disease. It behoves on the government to consider the public interest of the majority of the people in the State and adopt short- and long-term strategies in the fight against the pandemic, for the public good.

The CSO Situation Room, while in the course of conducting impact-assessment tours across the State, received reports that several lives have been lost in Ughelli, Warri, Effurun, and other parts of the State, due to sudden ailments and an inability to access adequate medical attention. It has also been reported that some hospitals are purportedly refusing to attend to patients who complain of experiencing ailments similar to COVID-19 symptoms. Out of fear that they may mistakenly admit a COVID-19 patient which will incur the wrath of the government, and to avoid a situation where their hospitals are shut down indefinitely by the government, these hospitals now reject patients who complain of experiencing diarrhoea, headache, body pains and cough. But, most of these symptoms of COVID-19 also manifest in persons diagnosed of other ailments and who may not be infected with the coronavirus. Where then, does the government want such persons to go to for treatment, when several hospitals are being locked up and the health centres that are still operating, will not admit them, in order to avoid a closure by the government?

The CSO Situation Room therefore calls on the government to rescind the closure of the affected hospitals and ensure they are disinfected and made accessible to the public. Hospital premises and facilities should be thoroughly decontaminated very often, to prevent the spread of infections within the hospital, whilst being allowed to operate fully. All medical and non-medical personnel of the affected hospitals, should be made to undergo a COVID-19 test to ascertain their status. If any is found to be positive, such should be quarantined at the State’s Isolation Centre, while those not infected, should be given adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and allowed to resume work at their respective hospitals. There are several persons in the State who will always need health services for diverse medical conditions and they must not be denied access to healthcare facilities. Pregnant women, infant children and elderly people often have scheduled visits made routinely to the hospitals for medicare.  There could also be cases of sudden ailments affecting any person, which could warrant urgent medical attention at the nearest health facility. Hence, shutting down hospitals amidst a raging COVID-19 pandemic, is tantamount to waging a war against the people of the State, rather than fighting the pandemic.

Displaced by Insurgency, Re-displaced by Flood; IDPs in Borno State cry out for help

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The devastating tragedy of the flood crisis at Shuwari 5 IDP camp

BORNO STATE REPORT

Twice dislodged, both geographically, several inhabitants of Borno IDP camps are presently fleeing a threat to their lives, posed by the intense rainstorms and ravaging flood. Following the heavy downpour of rain witnessed within the last two weeks, hundreds of tents at various IDP encampments were submerged in flood water for several days. This could mark the beginning of the anticipated peak of the rainy season, this year. The flood water no more recedes completely, before the next rainstorm occurs, thus leaving vast areas of the IDP camps perpetually engulfed in floodwater. From Shuwari 5 IDP camp in Dikwa LGA to Mashedumami Extension 2 camp in Konduga LGA, and many other IDP camps in the State, the flood situation has been extremely disturbing to the displaced persons, many of whom are crying out to the Federal and State Governments for urgent aid.

At the Shuwari 5 IDP camp in Dikwa LGA, most of the makeshift tents have been swamped, with valuable properties damaged beyond repair. Members of the Civil Societies Network, operating under the aegis of the CSO Situation Room, who visited the camp, observed that the daily rainfall volume had overwhelmed the drainage capacity of the local area, leaving several tents submerged in the flood for several days. The overall environment was in an uninhabitable state, as many displaced persons had to abandon their tents, to wait helplessly in the open, till the waters recede. Most of the people seen at the camp, looked deeply saddened by the flood disaster, as they recounted the loss of their personal belongings. Life is yet to return to normal at the camp. The waters are not receding fast enough, and the rains are bound to continue in relative proportions for a couple of months, before the end of the year.

There are environmental concerns as to the state of the camp and the harsh living conditions which the inhabitants, particularly the children, are subjected to. The flood erosion washes away a lot of sand, leaving many portions of the ground too slippery for children and adults alike, to move across without stumbling and sustaining injuries. There are also health concerns about the transmission of water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases at the IDP communities which have become more vulnerable with a high flood-risk exposure. Coupled with the dread of a widespread transmission of the coronavirus disease at the IDP camps, is the fear of contracting other non-viral diseases through contaminated floodwater. Flood often causes improperly disposed human wastes and other decomposing substances at refuse dump sites, to wash away, into areas inhabited by humans. When the flood water dries up, these sediments could remain on the ground and cause diseases to people, especially children who love to play outdoors. The polluted flood water may also find its way into the pipes that convey the water which the people drink and use for bathing, washing, etc. Cholera, diarrhoea and respiratory infections are common diseases that are endemic in IDP camps and many communities in Borno State, during the peak of the rainy season.

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Many IDPs wait helplessly in the open, hoping to return to their tents whenever the flood recedes

The rains have had a huge impact on the people in the camp. Alongside the loss of shelter, they have lost the little comfort they may have had. Whenever it rains, many of them are seen clustering together under a tree within the camp where they can find protection from the rain. This has become the very pathetic plight of many IDPs, most of whom are women, children and the elderly. Some of them who spoke to the CSO team, lamented the loss of foodstuffs and medical drugs, which they said were being stored in their tents for future consumption. The flood took them unawares and they barely had enough time to salvage any item of value, before their entire tents were overtaken by the floodwater. They could only flee from the tents with their children, to save their lives, they said. The imminent danger posed by excessive flooding, such as drowning and bodily harm, as well as the shortage in food, water and electricity supply resulting from the frequent damage to infrastructure caused by the rainstorm, makes the situation a perfect nightmare for the affected IDPs.

The CSO Situation Room advocates very strongly for urgent assistance to be provided to the people living in the flood-prone Shuwari 5 IDP camp and other IDP camps that have been affected by the rains. These people urgently need alternative shelter in areas that are not susceptible to flood. They also are in dire need of a fresh supply of food and cooking materials, as well as potable water, new clothings, mattresses, bedsheets, blankets and other essential household needs. Considering that their tents may have been structurally damaged by the floods, the Borno state Government and the Federal Ministry of Disaster Management and Humanitarian Affairs should work expeditiously in ensuring that lives are not lost to the flood tragedy. In addition, there is the need for embankments to be erected around the camps to prevent an inflow of floodwater from the neighbouring streets, into the camps. This should be accompanied with the construction of flood ways to adequately channel the flood and divert it from areas inhabited by residents of the State. As soon as the flood is appropriately diverted, the government must ensure a timely assessment of the affected tents is conducted to ascertain how badly damaged they may be. Tents having badly-damaged internal and external fitting, should be promptly reconstructed. There ought to be sufficient plans put in place as preventive action for the potential risk of flood across the state.

Social Action demands swift, bold action against Rape in Rivers State

Stop Sexual Violence

RIVERS STATE REPORT

The unusual rise in the incidence of rape and attempted rape in Rivers State, this year, has become a daunting challenge, in the face of the rampant nature in which the crime is being perpetrated and the seeming helplessness of the society to nip the problem in the bud. Rape is an act of sexual violence which simply put, entails a non-consensual sexual intercourse. Where a minor (a person below 18 years of age) is involved, it is deemed to be rape, whether or not consent was obtained. The Social Development Integrated Centre, also known as Social Action, working in collaboration with the Civil Rights Council (CRC) in monitoring the human rights violations perpetrated within the State, have in recent times, been inundated with reports from residents about rape incidents that occurred in their neighbourhoods. Over 40 cases of alleged sexual abuse have been reported since May, 2020 till date, of which the majority are cases of rape. Of this lot, is the recent case involving a 9 year-old girl who was allegedly raped by her neighbour, a 30 year-old man at Ikwerre LGA, on the 13th of June. Earlier reported, was a similar case of a 10 year old girl in Diobu, Port Harcourt LGA who was alleged to have been serially raped by her neighbour on May 22nd. In both isolated cases, as well as in many other reported cases, it was learnt that the alleged rapist was well known to the victim, and the family of the victim attempted to cover up the matter by promoting a culture of silence. Although this trend does not apply in all cases, 80 percent of rape cases reported within the period under review, reveal that the culture of silence enables the perpetrator, a well-known person to the victim, to escape justice with the tacit support of the victim’s family.

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