By Musa Sunusi Ahmad

The decision of the Federal government to order the immediate closure of restaurants and other small and medium scale businesses for fear of the spread of the CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC in Nigeria as announced by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation Mr. Boss Mustapha has been described as absolutely wicked, irrational, heartless and mean hearted since the Nigerian government did not transparently re-distribute financial bailouts and palliatives to the millions of restaurant operators and owners of other businesses ordered to shut down their operations ad infinitum for fear of second wave of the health emergency.   

Making these observations is the nation’s most prominent Civil Rights Advocacy group-:HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) which also carpeted the Nigerian Government under President Muhammadu Buhari for failing to publicly render accounts of what was done with the multibillion dollars donations in cash and kind made to corporate Nigerians in aid of distressed Nigerians to cushion the consequences and the crushing economic effects of the prolonged shut down of the economy by the Federal government which lasted over eight months without any form of financial bailouts handed over to the many businesses that folded up due to the government’s imposed lockdown when the CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC in Nigeria arrived around March of this year. 

Signed by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) in the media Statement accused the federal government of recklessness and massive neglect of their starutory obligations enshrined in the fundamental objectives and directive principles of State Policy of the Nigerian Constitution and the binding obligations contained in the plethora of human rights provisions of Chapter 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 as amended which specifies that THE SECURITY ABD WELFARE OF THE PEOPLE SHALL BE THE PRIMARY PURPOSE OF GOVERNMENT (SECTION 14(2)(B) just as the Rights group said the failure of the Nigerian Governmentto clearly implement the distribution of FINANCIAL PALLIATIVES TO THESE SMALL SCALE BUSINESSES ORDERED TO SHUT DOWN OPERATIONS WITHOUT PRIOR NOTICE amounts to an attempt to send millions of Nigerians to their early graves. 

HURIWA recalled that the Presidential task Force on Covid-19 headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation Mr. Boss Mustapha issued a statement ordering the shut down of certain businesses for fear of another wave of COVID-19 in the Country but failed to address the critical component of what government has done to ameliorate the consequences of this senseless and reckless directives of government on businesses as contained in the following statement by Boss Mustapha thus:

“National Briefing for Monday 21st December, 2020

2.​ Over the past four briefings, the PTF has been raising the alert flag on the rising number of infections in the country and the possibility of a second wave arriving at our shores.

3. Recent Epidemiology records confirm to the PTF that Nigeria is now facing a rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases nationwide which is similar to the second wave of infections occurring in other countries across the world. Particularly, Lagos, Kaduna and the FCT have emerged as the new epicentres during this period, with over 70% of all confirmed cases.

4.​ Two major indicators highlight the current increase in cases and transmission across Nigeria. These are:

i. Notwithstanding the fact that our testing numbers are fast approaching the peak recorded in July 2020, the number of cases being reported are disproportionately higher. For example, in the FCT, despite recording an increase of 85% in tests conducted over the last week, the number of confirmed cases increased by 285% during the same time period; and

ii. These trends point to a higher Test Positivity Rate (TPR- the number of positive cases detected as a proportion of all tests). The TPR was below 5% through September and October and we recorded a low point of 3% nationally in late October 2020. However, recent trends in cases has seen this number increase to 10% in the second week of December.

These high numbers are further reflected in the increase of admissions to COVID-19 treatment centres and fatalities, particularly in the three epicentre states.

5.​ The result of the analysis carried out by the PTF further indicate that the current pattern of spread, and the surge is likely to be driven by the following factors:

i. the lack of compliance with non-pharmaceutical interventions – particularly the disregard for mask use in public, large gatherings as a result of events linked to the yuletide season and recent civil demonstrations.

ii. Further disregard for other public health preventive measures, such as hand hygiene and physical distance requirements;

iii. The activities and assumptions of our youthful population which has resulted in an increase in the infection rate among young people, who are subsequently infecting older and more vulnerable family members.

6.​From our assessment, the current situation are clearly the consequences of certain occurrences and events of the last few weeks. These include:

i. Sudden increase in social gatherings involving large congregations from different parts of the country, and the world, at events such as weddings, religious activities, political rallies, conferences and end of year celebrations;

ii. These events, classified globally as ‘supers-spreader events’, make the risk of a single infection causing a large outbreak among attendees significantly higher;

iii. Furthermore, as we reopened the economy, we experienced increased economic, social and religious gatherings and activities all of which have combined to play a part in viral transmissions. These include:

a) The opening of the international airspace in September 2020 – While the average number of daily imported infections into the country in the last 90 days is estimated to be about 7 cases, compared to 100-150 reported new infections in the community since the beginning of community transmission, the test positivity rate in travellers arriving Lagos has recently doubled to 6.3%;

b) The resumption of schools – outbreaks have been reported in schools following the resumption of physical classes;

c) The resumption of NYSC orientation camps – this risk has been mitigated by ensuring that all NYSC members were screened for COVID-19 prior to admission to camp, but confirmed cases have still been identified through tests carried out;

d) The full opening of offices with the return to work of government workers from GL. 12 and below – outbreaks have also been reported in public offices, most likely linked to overcrowding, poor ventilation and the lack of compliance with non-pharmaceutical interventions; and

e) The opening of the economy with progressive relaxation of restrictions in congregational areas such as places of worship, restaurants, bars, lounges, shopping and event centres.

7.​ You will also recall that the PTF established the Nigeria International Travel Portal for the control of possible importation of the virus. Statistics show that a good percentage of in-bound travellers have breached the travel protocols thereby making surveillance and testing suffer undue setbacks. The following statistics will be of interest.

a) As at date, 163,818 inbound travellers have been captured on the portal;

b) Out of this number, 77,025 (47%) made payment for post arrival testing;

c) 64,405 (84%) of the number are due for post-arrival test;

d) Out of 44,189 (69%) that were due for post-arrival test, 44,189 representing (59%) of those tested; and

e) 20,216 (31%) have not shown up for post arrival test thereby endangering members of the community and breaching the protocols they signed up to.

8.​The PTF has concluded arrangements with the Nigeria Immigration Service to impose sanctions on these defaulters for breaching the public health protocols, within ambit of the law.

9.​ The PTF has surveyed developments and actions taken by governments around the world, assessed our domestic environment and has accordingly submitted its recommendations to Mr. President on immediate measures to be taken.

10​. Accordingly, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has authorised the PTF to engage with the States and the FCT to assume full ownership of this stage of the response by deploying legal structures and resources, including enforcement to manage the pandemic within their jurisdictions:

11. In line with the authorisation, the PTF wishes to issue the following advisories to sub-national entities for implementation over the next five weeks because these activities are considered super spreader events:

a. Close All bars, night clubs, pubs and event centres, and recreational venues;

b. Close all restaurants except those providing services to hotel residents; takeaways, home deliveries and drive-ins shall remain closed;

c. Restrict all informal and formal festivity events including weddings, conferences, congresses, office parties, concerts, seminars, sporting activities, end of year events shall be restricted to not more than 50 persons;

d. Limit All gatherings linked to religious events to less than 50% capacity of the facility of use during which physical distancing; mandatory use of face masks shall be strictly enforced

e. Where more than 50 persons are attending, any such events, the gathering should be held outdoors only;

f. Public transportation systems are to carry passengers not more than 50% of their capacity in compliance with social distancing rules.

g. Enforce compliance with NPI protocols especially the advisory on wearing of face masks in public spaces;

(ii) To reduce overcrowding in public spaces, markets, shopping centres, offices and schools States are advised to implement the following:

a. Encourage virtual meetings in government Offices. The leadership of such offices are to ensure that all offices are well-ventilated offices, and encourage staff to work from home where possible;

b. All government staff on GL.12 and below are to stay at home for the next 5 weeks; Permanent Secretaries and Chief Executives are to be held accountable for enforcing NPI rules in their domains with frequent spot checks;

c. The PTF on the advice of the Federal Ministry of Education, expects that schools would have vacated from the 18th December 2020 and remain .”

HURIWA has therefore asked President Muhammadu Buhari not to send millions of poor Nigerians to shut down their only sources of living and expect them to go home and die even as the Rights Advocacy group HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) stated that the NIGERIAN PRESIDENT must provide immediate and far reaching PALLIATIVES and financial bailouts ti these businesses before expecting total compliance.  

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