A few weeks ago, we predicted that unless Nigerians started taking the Coronavirus seriously, especially privileged Nigerians with social mobility, the cases of the virus in the country would continue to rise, necessitating extended lock downs. Our predictions were confirmed when the presidency extended an original lock down on the FCT and Lagos and Ogun states of two weeks into a month. In that time, the Coronavirus spread from 4 states to 16, and we inch towards 1000 recorded cases in the country, though many suspect the numbers are much higher.
This, and the worst crude oil rates ever recorded in history has turned Nigerian into a very poor country, and has forced the state governors to finally take some responsibility. They are asking that the response against the Coronavirus in Nigeria be decentralized from the federal government and deployed at the local government level under the supervision of the state governments. Already several states have instituted compulsory use of face masks, which suggests they are going to either ease intra-state restrictions or remove them altogether. While this could be disastrous, it is also inevitable. Nigeria is a very poor country where the vast majority of its citizens rely on daily wages to survive. Extended lock downs will lead to hunger related deaths, defeating the purpose of the lock downs in the first place.
Governor Kayode Fayemi, representing the state governments has released a public statement, outlining the position of the governors and necessitating the inter state response to the pandemic. You can read it in full below.
ISSUED AT THE END OF THE 6th COVID-19 TELECONFERENCE MEETING OF THE NIGERIA GOVERNORS’ FORUM HELD ON WEDNESDAY, 22nd APRIL 2020
We, members of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), at our meeting held today deliberated on the COVID-19 pandemic in the country and resolved as follows:
The Forum held a minute’s silence in honour of all Nigerians who have lost their lives from coronavirus, especially health workers who were in the front lines of the epidemic.
Members also conveyed their condolence to Mr President and the people of Borno State on the passing of the Chief of Staff to the President, Mr. Abba Kyari who passed away on 17th April 2020 in the line of duty to the country.
The NGF Chairman briefed the Forum on the rapidly evolving situation of the COVID-19 pandemic and coordination efforts with the federal government, multilateral and bilateral partners, and the private sector through the Coalition against COVID-19 (CACOVID). With over 25 States now affected by the spread of the virus and increasing evidence of community transmission, State Governors called for the decentralization of the COVID-19 response as the best chance of nipping the spread of the virus in communities.
Following an update from the NGF Secretariat on the number of COVID-19 cases in the country, members expressed serious concern over the rising spread of the virus among health workers and resolved to work with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to ensure that health workers are adequately provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) and are constantly trained on the use of protective gears.
In order to strengthen coordinated implementation of necessary public health recommendations across States, Governors resolved to set up COVID-19 Committees at the regional level, headed by their State Commissioners of Health. Regional Committees will continue to interface with the State Task Force Committees on COVID-19 already established in each State.
The Forum also received briefing from the Governors of Lagos, Bauchi, Oyo and Ogun State who shared their experiences and lessons from the fight against COVID-19.
Governors unanimously agreed to the implementation of an inter-State lockdown in the country over the next two weeks to mitigate the spread of the virus from State to State. Only essential services will be permitted.
Lastly, the Forum congratulated the Governor of Kaduna State, H.E. Nasir El-Rufai who after nearly four weeks of testing positive and observing very strict medical regime has now received two consecutive negative test results for the coronavirus.
Governor Kayode Fayemi
Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum
22nd April 2020
What does this mean for all of us?
Perhaps a quicker response towards localized outbreaks of the pandemic, swifter response and community based healthcare. It could also mean gross incompetence and more loss of life. We will just have to wait and see.