The situation room of the civil society organizations and media has has frowned at the total lockdown order issued by the Gov Nyesom Wike of Rivers State on the state capital and urged him to review the order. A report signed by the team led by Stevyn Obodoekwe and Sebastian Kpalap said the actions were not based on consultations.
In more than two months, our country has been faced with serious challenges of containing the outbreak of the novel Corona Virus (COVID-19) which has become a threat to the human race and has also crippled global economy and more so caused hunger crisis.
While we want to continue to support government as active citizens by making viable and valuable recommendations which is needed at this time to move our nation forward, we frown at policy responses which worsen the plight of a people still reeling and coming to grasps with a health pandemic which social and economic cost is staggering.
We are concerned that instead of striving for consensus, governments at all strata have continued to revel in anti-peoples’ policies and directives, without broad consultation with relevant stakeholders. This certainly is not the time government should be acting alone.
The situation room has done its best to highlight lapses in policy articulation and implementation and has not failed to make recommendations to the Rivers state, federal and local governments on how best to navigate the myriads of challenges thrown up by the pandemic.
We recognize how hard it is to lead in the face of these trying times and ensure that all hands are in deck to combat this deadly disease that has threatened the state. However, this is not only the time for the government to show courage and demonstrate leadership in the face of the pandemic and but also the time to show compassion, empathy and sensitivity to the plight of the ordinary people.
While we commend government at all levels for their unwavering commitment to fighting the dreaded pandemic, we equally commend the people for their forbearance and willingness to surrender some of their rights in the collective will and effort to defeat the Corona virus.
In the light of this, the Situation Room therefore calls on the Rivers State government to review the just announced 24 hours’ curfew imposed on the two major local government areas of the state, Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt City local council areas that make up the state capital.
At a time, other countries and states are beginning to ease restrictions, it is curious that Rivers state is tightening the screws. At a time, the federal government took the lead to relax the lockdown which lasted for more than two months, one wonders why the Rivers State government should be planning at this time to embark on a total lockdown which will further create uncertainty and panic in the lives of those whose only sources of livelihood depend on daily hustling. Shops, bars, private offices, local markets and every other small scale business are shutdown.
This most recent lockdown, on Obio/Akpor and PHALGA, which by implication means the whole state, raises a lot of issues and concerns. These are:
What are the parameters being used to impose total lockdown in some local governments?
What provisions has the state government put in place to ensure aggressive testing of households in other to detect who has the virus.
What sensitization measures has the government puts in place in other to inform the people especially rural dwellers on the dangers of COVID-19 and the possible avoidable guidelines
How many test centers do we have in the state and how effective are they.
Have the government evaluated the distribution of the food palliatives distribution to know who and who has gotten and how sustaining this has been
In view of the afore-stated, we wish to on behalf of the suffering people of the State, who are bearing the back-breaking brunt of this action, specially appeal to the conscience of the State governor, Barr. Nyesom Wike, to please re-think and withdraw this harsh lockdown order in the overall interest of the suffering masses
Situation Room also enjoins him to by same stroke, please lift the lid on the areas that are presently under lockdown to allow struggling businesses to thrive. His Excellency can do well to articulate and put in place containment social guidelines in the area of which we will support the government with mass sensitization to improve adherence.
We are furthermore strongly enjoining the State authority to see wisdom in, and allow street shops and corner markets to operate. This will how to strategically manage human basic needs for daily provision with the disease containment as such mini-markets and corner shops actively takes away both pressure and need for conventional markets that draw large and consequently unhealthy human gatherings.
There is in a similar vein, in a bid to work out workable and practical arrangement and solutions to the situation at hand, need to create some designated and moderated open spaces, where traders can modestly operate from, with security operatives attached to ensure healthy social distancing.
That rather than muscle citizens the government should make available the common Personal Preventive kits like facemask and hand sanitizers to all in the state
An evaluation should be done on the closure of the borders to see its effectiveness, as it appears that despite the closure of the state borders, the numbers of cases recorded in the state has continued to rise.
The State government at this point should do well to consult critical stakeholders, captains of industry, citizen’s groups, Civil Society, traditional Rulers and etc. before decisions are taken.
The language of communicating government policy responses should by tempered to give such policy options a human face. Governance is a social contract that requires the buy-in of the people to succeed.