Amidst the revelation that Nigeria had conducted a dismal 11,426 Covid-19 tests and recorded 1,337 confirmed cases,250 recoveries and 40 deaths, President Buhari’s address to the nation formed the main talking point of Monday 27th April. The Buhari administration’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic has been very disappointing and asides the pronouncement of 50% of health care workers’ basic salaries as hazard allowance, nothing else was inspiring about his speech. Below are some of the highlights.
EXPERTS PROJECTED 2,000 CASES IN FIRST MONTH AFTER INDEX CASE
This may have been a plan hatched by President Buhari’s handlers to absolve him of the blame for leaving it too late to shut our borders and portray his handling of the crisis as efficient. When the Minister of Health, Prof. Osagie Enahire said on March 13 precisely that the second Covid-19 case; an off-shoot of the index case who flew in from Italy was testing negative, there were no other confirmed cases and both were scheduled to be released in the following days. We were coronavirus-free.
The 3rd case did not contract it from any of the 2 cases or their contacts, she flew into the country from the UK on the very day the Minister was making that announcement and was confirmed positive after she developed symptoms days later in self-isolation. If Buhari had restricted travels from the Covid-19 hot spots or banned entry totally after the index case, Nigeria wouldn’t be in this mess.No jankara ‘model’ told Buhari we were looking at 2,000 cases after the first month. I don’t think anyone fully aware of the facts on the ground would believe that.
If he had shut down entry after the very first case like some of us were calling on him to do considering the quality of health care available, level of enlightenment and the drastic effects locking down the country like we were seeing abroad would have on the average Nigerian, we would have been coronavirus free and going about our normal businesses.
BUHARI IS TAKING KANO FOR GRANTED
When some scary numbers started emanating from Kano after its index case, the Presidential task force said it was sending a team to the state but so far, the 2-week lockdown is the only thing indicating the Federal Government appreciates the special treatment Kano should get. The most populous state in the country has been tipped by some to become the epicentre of the Covid 19 global pandemic. It not only has just one test centre, that too was shut down for days because it got contaminated.
The Presidential Task Force stayed mute during that period while Kano’s next-door neighbours, Kaduna whose population is less than half its size was opening its second test centre.
The Kano state government had requested N15bn from the Federal Government to help tackle the crisis before Buhari’s speech and his promise to assist with ‘human, material and technical resources’ instead still depicts him as not fully grasping the sensitivity of the situation on ground. First, the state needs at least 2 more test centres. Secondly, being very familiar with the state, he of all people should know how volatile it can get. There will be utter chaos if people are asked to stay home for 2 weeks (possibly more after that) and fed half tier of rice and 2 cups of beans. The state government’s handling of the crisis may have been poor but the FG as the overriding authority needs to take decisive measures with due regard to the peculiarity of Kano.
STILL, NO MENTION OF NIGERIANS STRANDED ABROAD
Shortly before Buhari’s previous speech, the foreign minister announced that Nigerians eager to return home from abroad would be evacuated and that they had to pay for it. At that time, China was not only seizing the international passports of Nigerians there, but it was also kicking them out of their places of residence to sleep on the streets. How can you look such people in the eye and ask them to pay for rescuing them especially considering how much you have amassed in donations alone? No one will get on that plane and pay later when they are in Nigeria, they all have to be able to afford a trip back or die there.
Buhari owes it to Nigerians to not only address the sad treatment of our countrymen abroad, but he also needs to shed light on when the government will start sending those planes. Its been weeks already.
A LOCKDOWN IS NECESSARY
President Buhari eased the lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and the FCT with an 8am-6pm curfew effective from May 4th (Monday). One of the most common means of contracting the virus is through the handling of cash. There is also the danger of contaminated surfaces-bus seats, door handles, tables, chairs et al.The plain truth is that the lockdown is very much needed to curtail the spread of the virus but it is really sad that the government despite being allocated and receiving tons of money, has not been able to adequately cater to the needs of the masses it has asked to sit at home.
Families are being handed palliatives as ridiculous as a pack of indomie and 2 cups of beans. On social media, most Nigerians were calling for an end to the lockdown before Buhari’s speech and as soon as it ended they were saying coronavirus won’t take a break from 8am-6pm daily. What this says, in essence, is that in as much as everyone understands the problem we are dealing with, most would rather go out and work than receive the disgraceful food rations their governments are giving them.
Buhari succumbed to the wishes of the people by letting them out but one thing he didn’t take into consideration, however, was the need to balance on one hand, having to call off a lockdown because it was no longer practicable and on the other, the caution the issue of public health requires.
An initial 8am-6pm curfew for 3 or 4 days a week would have allowed government enough room to monitor and appraise the situation critically; the ease of contact tracing, escalation of cases et al. People that have gotten too used to going out daily would deem reverting to a lockdown drastic and above all, an indictment of his handling of the crisis.
Umar Sa’ad Hassan is based in Kano