By Professor Amagwu Ibeawuchi Francis
Daily Sun publication of Wednesday, February 3, 2021, (front page) showed a picture of Crowd of traders outside the Wuse Modern Market closed by Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) Mobile Court for violations of Covid-19 protocols in Abuja and on Tuesday, February 2, 2012 (front page, also), same paper published pictures of scores convicted by mobile court in Abuja for non-use of facemasks and other violations of same protocol.
In both instances, there were serious violations of both social distancing and wearing of facemasks and the monitoring officials were helpless in dealing with the situations confronting them at the time. Of more worrisome was the fact that even while the trial of violators were on, the mobile court officials could not even enforce the two elements of violation for which culprits were been tried.
The obvious reason was our penchant for punishment rather than prevention of future recurrence.
These scenarios remind us of the ongoing NIN registrations with associated crowding of Nigerians at the registration centers. One thing that easily comes to the mind of any discerning observer is that our government officials enjoy watching Nigerians suffer undue hardships from crisis situation arising from policy deadline.
It is difficult to excuse situations under the current COVID-19 pandemic where citizens are observed crowding at registration centers just to meet deadline and our government officials look the other way. Even with the extension of the deadline the situation is unlikely to change as long as the mindset of enforcing agents remains fixated on reaping out of the sufferings of fellow Nigerians under crisis situation.
Regarding the enforcement of COVID-19 protocols, was it better to punish violators and inflict more pains of extortion from monitoring officials, or to caution and let them go and sin no more? It would have been a win-win situation to be on the side of prevention through awareness and sensitization across the nation than to create roadblocks to check violators of the protocols.
It is in the interest of the public to keep to these prescribed protocols to prevent further spread of the disease and Nigerians would be willing to do so if adequate sensitization and awareness programs were put in place and sustained.
This should be the major thrust of government responsibility in dealing with the pandemic.
Additionally, government should provide logistic and infrastructural support to centers and agencies with specific responsibilities to manage COVID-19 pandemic across the nation. These include (but not limited to); providing support facilities at our land and sea borders, airport terminals, train and bus stations, motor parks.
Such locations should be provided with regular water supplies, soaps and sanitizers, free testing machines at strategic locations, face masks to monitoring agents to be shared out to assist those without one while on compliance checks. Religious bodies and private organizations should be encouraged to provide same in churches, mosques and other gatherings.
Public and private schools across the nation should be equipped to monitor these protocols whilst schools are in session. Individuals and families wishing to organise burials, weddings or any form of party requiring group gathering should be sensitized to abide by these established protocols.
Closing schools and institutions and reopening same after a period without ensuring adequate provision of necessary logistics, facilities and infrastructure before resumption of academic activities would only be a cosmetic approach to the prevailing situation.
Taking a closer look at the increase in the number of new cases and associated deaths (as reported daily by NCDC), one is inclined to believe that the government had lost the fight against the disease. The relaxation of the COVID 19 protocols during the 2020 Christmas and yuletide period (no doubt) was partly responsible for the increase in reported cases and deaths.
Closely related to this was the impression by many that Covid-19 is not real and therefore no need to observe Covid-19 protocols.
It is undeniably obvious that conspiracy theorists were unrepentantly and painstakingly focused on countering the already known reality of the disease and its prevalence in our land but the body language of the government in dealing with the situation is a good pointer to their claim.
Before the pandemic, there were deaths across the nation daily from different ailments and accidents.
How then could one reconcile the increases in the number of deaths (reported by NCDC on daily basis) with deaths from accidents and normal ailments? This is where conspiracy theorists differ with the genuineness of the pandemic and associated reports from the NCDC.
Obviously there were deaths from typhoid, fever, malaria, drug overdose, HIV/Aids, Hepatitis B and other complications which are now being reported within COVID-19 umbrella. Some analysts have even suggested that the agency should, in addition to its core mandates focus more on sensitization, awareness creation and providing relevant facilities and logistic support for the public to deal with the pandemic within prescribed protocols. And as a government agency, government should also fund them to do so.
Lifestyle medicine requires the clinical application of healthy behaviors to prevent, treat as well as reverse diseases (inclusive of pandemic).
This is a proactive approach to health care delivery and dealing with the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic. A government without the requisite capacity to deal with an upsurge should focus more on preventive rather down inflicting more pains on the citizens through emergency/ ad hoc policy framework.
This was exactly what our government have been doing in handling the prevailing pandemic since 2020 with little results.
Nigerian population is estimated to be two hundred and ten (210) million people.
Even with the introduction of vaccines, one million doses of vaccines in the first instance or eighty (80) million doses for 2021(as reported in the dailies) is a far cry which would end up in the hands of the wealthy few and privileged class. The situation is not likely to abate in the foreseeable future if policy framework and mindset remains the same.
There should be a paradigm shift in approach and focus and this should be in creating adequate awareness and sensitization across the nation on the already established COVID 19 protocols and also providing adequate support for relevant agencies and organizations at designated centers as mentioned above.
Professor Amagwu Ibeawuchi Francis – PhD, HCIB, WAAD is of faculty Micro and Development Finance Appolos University Montana, USA.