With the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country, government at various levels set up Taskforces to coordinate and implement their response. This was deeply welcomed by all Nigerians as we had hoped that this was the right step in the right direction with clear intentions of successfully defeated the Pandemic.
However, certain actions of government throughout this period has made us to question whether government operatives understand the enormity of the challenge before us as a nation especially its existential nature. We wonder whether the intentions of government as stated in their strategy is supported by actions that have become worrying to us as national stakeholders.
We believe that as a nation, we cannot afford to play politics or allow any primordial sentiment drive our response to this pandemic that is capable of destroying our nation. All policies and actions of government must be towards defeating COVID-19 comprehensively. Any action that therefore runs contrary to this ought to be avoided by all means as any mistake will imperil the whole nation.
It is on this plank that the ULC questions the action of the Lagos state government to arrest hundreds of individuals from FESTAC town and other parts of Lagos, herded them into black Maria, took them to Panti and then to Area F Police station between Thursday and Friday and remanded them in this same number at the Police Cells. They are expected to be arraigned before the appropriate on Monday, the 4th of May, 2020.
We are aghast that the state government which understands the consequences of crowding amidst the Pandemic and which has preached and urged citizens to maintain social and Physical distancing will allow itself to be carried away in trying to enforce the COVID-19 regulations.
We wonder what it was thinking herding these men and women together at this time! We want to know whether it never thought of the contagion effect of this action? You cannot create a situation that exacerbates the pandemic by pretending to resolve it. You cannot contain the pandemic by actions that clearly encourages its spread as what the government has done in this case does.
Another worrying angle to this is that we understand that the penalty for the offense which these individuals have committed is a fine of N2,000 (Two thousand Naira) only on conviction. Why would we endanger the whole nation by pursuing the fine which these individuals will pay?
ULC wants to know whether Lagos state government is more interested in pursuing the fine or in the containment of the COVID-19 pandemic? If it is interested in the money only then, it is doing the right thing but endangers not just Lagos state but the whole country but if it is pursuing containment, then, it has clearly acted with utmost indiscretion.
As the judges hear the cases on Monday, we hope that the regulations especially Social distancing will be observed? We urge the courts to act with dispatch so that this cases will be discharge and the individuals involved with those who arrested them sent to quarantine to safeguard them and the nation.
We do not see any difference between what the state government has done with what has been going on in Kano where it was reported that certain individuals washed their hands and drank the water. It is not difference with the chaos that attended the burial of the late Chief of staff to the president – Abba Kyari and that allegedly at the burial of the late Emir of Rano emirate council yesterday in Kano and in Borneo state.
Governments should not preside over the destruction of the nation by carrying out actions that put our nation at risk. When you take some of these precipitate actioms, Nigeria is portrayed as an unserious nation in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why would the Lagos state government chose to hide under the cover of the Lockdown to demolish the houses of its citizens? The demolition and subsequent homelessness of thousands of families and individuals in Yaya Abatan, Ogba and other parts of Lagos in the midst of all this is most callous and wicked. We have recorded over 55,000 individuals and families evicted by this government in a Pandemic!
It makes a lie of all the pretensions of seriousness in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. A government that is serious about fighting the outbreak would have at least waited for the scourge to be contained before taking such insensitive and unacceptable action. It shows the governor as having some other intentions which it is prepared to pursue no matter its consequences on the lives of the citizenry. This is condemnable and most horrendous.
Did the government ever consider the plight of these impacted citizens? Did it ever consider where they will stay during this lockdown? Did they ever imagine the exposure this will be for these thousands of families and individuals? Did they ever consider its implications on the entire struggle to contain the Pandemic?
How can you tell people to Lockdown at home but you go ahead and destroy their homes? In other nations of the world, homeless individuals are provided with homes at this time but in Nigeria, people are made homeless by the same government! This is clearly contradictory and Sanwolu should immediately take preemptive actions to protect these lives.
The actions of the ruling elite in Nigeria tend to portray them as individuals who pretend to lead by going through the motions of governance without any real intentions of making significant impact on the lives of the people. What happens then is that what they pursue on paper is usually different from what they actually do. This is a danger to all of us a a people if we use it in our COVID-19 pandemic battle. Seriousness and commitment is required for success in this battle.
ULC wants all Nigerians to know that any infected person anywhere in Nigeria puts every Nigeria at risk considering the virulent nature of this virus. It is only by standing for each other across the nation that we can defeat the Pandemic. No government should be allowed to negate our collective struggle against this pandemic at this time.
It pays governments to walk their talks. They have made themselves unbelievable to the citizenry by their proclivity to saying one thing and doing another thing! The lost trust can be regained when citizens begin to see actions on the ground that match the pronouncements of those in government. Have those that occupy the government houses ever thought why the COVID-19 messaging was not successful? The explanation was that the message was contaminated by the messengers in government. The citizens do not trust and have confidence in those that pretend to govern them. Lagos state government can correct this by being more sensitive to the yearnings and aspirations of its people.
We must therefore call the government of Lagos state, Kano state and the federal government to order as we battle COVID-19. Our actions must cohere with our stated goal of containing the outbreak and not those that undermines it and put the whole nation at risk. We suggest that those already affected by the eviction should be provided with Housing in vacant Lagos Housing projects scattered over the state until this Pandemic is contained.
A stitch in time they say, saves nine! Nobody will be safe in Nigeria if one individual, one family of whatever size remains infected. This is the lesson this Pandemic has thought us and this is what our governments must learn and pursue. Together in Solidarity we can defeat the Pandemic!
Comrade Joe Ajaero (President)