By Egena Sunday Ode
A coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) under the aegis of COVID-19 Situation Room and Research Centre on Wednesday urged the Federal Government to lift the interstate travel ban currently in place, as according to it, the expected objectives were not being achieved.
The group anchored its position on the allegation that while the ban prevented the smooth running of economic activities, there were allegations that security agents drafted to ensure strict enforcement had resorted to extortion of motorists, leaving the roads open for those who could offer them tips.
Chairman of the group, Dr. Onwubuya Abraham argued during the formal unveiling of the centre in Abuja on Wednesday, that rather than the travel ban, government should opt for strict compliance with the standard safety protocols in place, and penalise by way of fines where there are breaches. “We suggest that efforts should be concentrated more on management of cases, improved testing and sensitisation, because the travel ban is not helping. People are still traveling”, he said.
On schools closure, he said “we want to also join our voices to other concerned Nigerians in appealing to the federal government to make immediate arrangement for final year students in all our schools and educational institutions to resume and take their final exams”, adding that these may include SS3, JSS3, Primary 6 pupils and students of tertiary institutions.
He explained that the primary objective of the organisation was to complement the existing structures already in place to fight the coronavirus pandemic, “devoid of political and religious affiliations, but prepared to represent the interest of all Nigerians, and would be more focuses on providing Nigerians with facts and figures about the impact of COVID-19 and its after effects, as well as provide technical advice from independent perspectives.
He said: “this COVID-19 Situation Room and Research Centre is concerned with the implication and the danger of the spread and effects of the pandemic on the populace, moreso the centre feels that the fight against this invisible monster is a collective responsibility that should not be left on the shoulders of government alone.
“In the light of this, we want to make our position very clear. The primary objective of this organization is to complement the existing structures put in place to fight COVID-19 pandemic, devoid of political and religious affiliations. Essentially, the centre is notpolitical and as such prepared to represent the interest of all Nigerians, devoid of Regionalism, Nepotism, Ethnicity and Geo-political Sentiments, butwould be more focused on providing Nigerians with facts and figures about the impact of COVID-19 and its after effects on the country as well as provide professional and technical advice from independent perspectives to governments at all levels and other relevant stakeholders accordingly.”
The group also called for the full opening of markets, noting that the restriction to only three days a week had compounded the poor observation of social distancing protocol as it had led to the surging of crowd at the market places.
Elder statesmen, Engr. Buba Galadima who performed the unveiling in his remarks, lamented that as much as 90 percent of Nigerians do not agree that coronavirus exists, due mainly to inadequate tests. “We cannot determine today, how many Nigerians have been infected because we’re not doing enough tests. We can only appeal to those in government to increase the testing”, he noted.
While appealing to government to take a second look at the case of stranded Nigerians abroad over outbreak of the pandemic through support to make their return easier, Galadima said people should see government campaigns, including use of lockdown as “an issue of self-preservation”, and not to live in doubts.