Though President Muhammadu Buhari, this week, signed the Covid-19 Regulations 2020, the action will, for some time, remain debatable. What’s the legality or otherwise of the Regulations? Was the president apt and timely in signing the Regulations or he was not? These are the debatable questions.
However people look at the president’s action, the fact remains that the action is needed to save lives, regardless of when it is taken. And, significantly, the Regulations declared Coronavirus as a dangerous infectious disease.
The Regulations, which came into effect on March 30, 2020, gave legal backing to the various measures outlined in the President’s National Broadcast on March 29, 2020, such as Restriction/Cessation of Movement in Lagos, FCT and Ogun State and others to containing the spread of the pandemic in the country.
A statement signed by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, said the president signed the regulations in exercise of the powers conferred on him by Sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Quarantine Act (CAP Q2 LFN 2004), and all other powers enabling him in that behalf.
“In addition, to ensure that Nigerians can still perform on-line transactions and use ATMs whilst observing these restrictions, exemption is granted financial system and money markets to allow very skeletal operations in order to keep the system in light operations during the pendency of these regulations,” the statement said.
Debatably, however, it can be said that while the president’s action is good in itself, the manner in which it was birthed can, of course, be said to be a thing of concern to Nigerians. This is so mainly because at a time like this, when all hands are supposed to be joined to defeat coronavirus, right actions only should be taken at the right time. And, above all, countries must work closely together and with same motif.
Regrettably, countries’ leaders and their advisers now seem to have reverted to the Second World War model of making decisions in relatively small groups and then releasing papers and statements, giving interviews or writing articles. Politicians and their advisers need to get with the times and embrace open research.
They should harness the collective expertise – now also accessible through social media – of virologists, epidemiologists, behavioural researchers and others who can help them to better interrogate their models and, therefore, improve their decisions. This is imperative when they are making decisions on which the future of lives and economies depend.
It is undeniably difficult for government science and medical advisers to advocate for a more collective, transparent approach when some of their leaders are sceptical about the value of international cooperation and are, instead, making unilateral decisions.
As the president rightly observed, nations must not panic and be moved to take actions that cannot be scientifically validated. Agreed, COVID-19 is a deadly disease. Agreed, too, coronavirus needs to be desperately tackled by nations. But their actions should, ideally, be carried out in unison while each takes note of its socio-economic and political peculiarities into consideration.
It is in this light, therefore, that advisers of leaders should persuade their principals to believe that coordinated collective action is in everyone’s interests.
If, for example, they disagree with the WHO’s analysis, then they should explain why. To defeat a pandemic like the Coronavirus in an interconnected world, countries need to provide full and transparent evidence to back up their decisions, and be willing to share that evidence so that they can defeat the virus together.
Why COVID-19 needs ‘ubuntu’ approach
Though presidential appreciation rarely occurs, it did occur in Nigeria this week, and the reasons that necessitated the appreciation are, indeed, noble.
It happened when President Muhammadu Buhari expressed his appreciation for the kind gesture extended by the captains of industries, corporate entities, missionaries, musical artistes and individuals who have graciously showed their support for the ongoing fight against COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
Needless to say, the disease is fast ravaging countries and their economy.
The president thanked, first, a group of oil companies, who partnered with the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC) to donate $30m. He equally appreciates the contributions from the national leader of the All Progressives Congress National (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; Dr Mike Adenuga, Modupeola and Folorunsho Alakija of Famfa Oil, and Dr Emeka Offor, who joined a list of other public-spirited Nigerians in contributing health and education facilities.
The president also welcomed generous donations announced by the Zenith Bank PLC, which was committed to the public healthcare system, Keystone Bank, First Bank Plc and Senior Pastor of Dunamis International Gospel Centre, Dr Paul Enenche, and his wife, Dr Becky Enenche, who also took to the streets to sensitise citizens on the dangers posed by the dreaded virus.
He also appreciates the efforts of Stallion Empowerment Initiative of the Stallion Group, and the entertainment industry, particularly renowned musician, Innocent Idibia (Tuface) for their contributions.
Heartwarmingly, the president said that the contributed funds would be properly utilised to check the effect of the COVID-19 and reposition the nation’s healthcare system. Rightly, the president urged intending donors to channel their contributions through the Presidential Task Force for the Control of the Novel Coronavirus headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
Significantly, the president urged Nigerians to follow the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health, state governments and National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), whose officials have been toiling day and night to keep everyone in the country safe.
He said the situation facing the country, and others across the world, would certainly need the financial, technical and material support of companies and individuals, and collective effort of all Nigerians, to bring the pandemic under control.
COVID-19 is already having a significant impact on the economies globally. The International Labour Organisation estimates that 86% of all employment in Africa is informal, meaning the lockdowns and curfews are significantly reducing economic activity.
The African Development Bank believes that the continent needs an “ubuntu plan” — meaning a globally-coordinated financial response to the economic impact of COVID-19 in Africa. Ubuntu is essentially about togetherness, and how all of our actions have an impact on others and on society.
With governments balancing economies and the welfare of their citizens, entire industries and institutional systems find themselves fighting for survival.
Luckily, Africa has been less severely impacted by COVID-19 than other continents, but existing issues like limited health facilities, water shortages, food scarcity, and highly-populated areas are causing concern that if COVID-19 does take hold it could spread significantly.
Africa’s best bet at containing the outbreak is breaking the chain of transmission. This essentially means that there should be effective testing, and swift action by governments to treat positive cases.
Individuals can help prevent new infections by following World Health Organisation recommended measures that include washing hands frequently, maintaining social and physical distance, and self-isolation for people who show signs of having the virus. People who test positive should self-quarantined.
While washing of hands with water and soap is not within reach for an estimated 313 million people in sub-Saharan Africa who lack access to sanitation and clean water, the situation the pandemic can be seen as a reason to push for improvements to water supplies.
Africa has seen from experience in other countries, like Italy, and Spain, that covid-19 has the potential to stretch health systems and Africa’s health systems are not as strong as those in Europe or the US.
That is why the continent’s response to coronavirus needs to be a partnership between leaders and communities, one where every party plays their role. Africa has a very good window of opportunity, which if not urgently and properly utilised now since when the number of cases is not yet widespread, could spell doom for the continent.