In response to the hardship which the Coronavirus pandemic has brought across the nation, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Awka, Most Rev Jonas Benson Okoye has called on Anambra State government and law enforcement agencies to consider the sufferings of the teeming masses before issuing directives on restrictions and its enforcement.
Bishop Okoye who made the call in a phone interview said such consideration would minimize the hardship faced mostly by commoners.
He advocated that government directives and manner of its enforcement must have a human face for it to go well with the masses who have been indoors for more than two weeks and also prevent possible mass demonstration which might be triggered by hunger and lack of basic amenities.
The Catholic prelate also commended the decision to grant free movement of essential workers.
“There is however the need to explain to the enforcers of the no-movement order, who is an essential worker. This will ensure that law enforcement agents do not harass Nigerians who have been suffering since the beginning of the total lockdown order. The government should, therefore, produce a list of essential workers and such list should be made available to the enforcement agencies for them to understudy,” he said.
He described the blockage of roads and denial of access for private cars to move about as inhuman, noting that this may hamper rendering of help and other essential services during the lockdown period.
“How will a pregnant woman under labour be able to go to the hospital in the case of any form of emergency. The electricity supply is quite epileptic, how does one buy fuel for the generator? People under this kind of lockdown should be allowed to move about in the quest for basic amenities even as providers of those basic amenities should be given a free hand by security agencies enforcing the lockdown directive to operate.” Okoye emphasized.
Bishop Okoye who lent his voice in condemning the directive by Anambra State government to relocate local markets in different communities, said the reversal of the directive, 24 hours after it was issued, was a right step in the right direction.
According to him, most of the designated places mapped out to serve as foodstuff markets were not easily accessible by people especially those living in suburban communities that required transportation for their movement.
The Catholic Prelate stressed the need for the people in the frontline to imbibe safety habits to ensure that they remain safe while trying to save the lives of others.
“People need to wash their hands with soap and running water for 20 seconds, but the problem is that most individuals do not have access to running water. I want to commend the creativity of Nigerians especially at how they fashioned buckets with taps to supply running water which was often refilled from time to time. This COVID-19 pandemic has helped to improve the level of hygiene and consciousness among people,” he acknowledged.
The auxiliary bishop commended Ndi Anambra and residents for the cooperation towards government’s directive in the first phase of the lockdown, adding that it was instrumental to the success which the state has been recording in her fight against the spread of the deadly virus.
He hailed the philanthropic deeds of wealthy Anambra citizens and representatives at both Federal and Statehouse Assembly who made efforts at sensitizing their constituents how to stay safe in the face of COVID-19 pandemic and said more is needed especially from high net-worth citizens in reaching out more to the less privileged to ameliorate the hardship which the pandemic brought.