Clearly, Nigeria has climbed the plateau of Coronavirus crisis with the daily upsurge in the confirmed cases and deaths. Nearly the entire 36 states and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are on the infected case chart. COVID-19 contagion is also now at the community transmission stage. Instructively, this stage of the pandemic is the most dreaded phase because of the potential bigger humanitarian crises that may result if the rate of spread is not curtailed with speed.
In light of the above, drawing government attention to certain factors that can worsen the current pandemic statistics has become imperative. And, this is not about whistleblowing; it is about advocating good policies that can boost national success in the ongoing actions and measures to flatten the curve of COVID-19 transmission.
Policy One: Against the backdrop of the recent easing of lockdown in the FCT, Lagos and Ogun States, it is important for the government to note that Nigerians naturally would go back to their old lifestyle of socialisation. Increased movement of people should be expected. Banking halls will burst with customers. Cash transactions will spike and exchange of dirty currency notes, which can contribute to the person-to-person transmission of Coronavirus, should be expected.
In the coming days and weeks, the majority of daily income earners will return to brick and mortar stores, shops and open markets for their essential and non-essential purchases. Cash will be exchanged for purchases. The tradition of price trial and test-fitting of goods will come back in full force.
Asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 will come out to shop and touch a number of goods including groceries, fruits, vegetables, pepper, tomatoes and onions. Sadly, some other persons will buy and carry those infected items home. They and their loved ones will be infected, then the chain of person-to-person and community transmission continues.
While lack of education and knowledge of the virus coupled with zero voluntary testings for Coronavirus remains a major setback for stemming transmission among the low socio-economic cadre, the situation does not look anything better among the so-called elite. Due to pride or fear of stigmatisation, many of them have refused to submit for voluntary testing. With the ease of lockdown, some of them that are infected will go to the malls, megastores and supermarkets, electronic or automobile showrooms. They will touch things on the shelves, and in the process increase community transmission of coronavirus.
With increased movement of people made possible by the easing of lockdown restrictions, the little gains on social distancing achieved during the period of lockdown would have been lost. In light of the above, the government must, as a matter of urgency, initiate or strengthen existing policy strategy that discourages people from using brick and mortar stores for both essential and non-essential purchases to prevent a further spike in the current high rate of COVID-19 transmission.
The most cost-effective way this can be achieved is for the government to encourage more Nigerians to use e-Commerce platforms for their purchases and transactions. For instance, pan-African leading e-Commerce operator Jumia has strong integrated technology and data-driven online channels and last-mile infrastructure that Nigerians can leverage for purchase of their essentials and non-essentials.
Jumia marketplace, logistics and e-payment platforms like JumiaPay enable customers to make orders online, pay online for goods and get their orders delivered to their offices or homes, as well as receive or transfer money. This way, they can avoid crowded places where the risk of COVID-19 infection is high, and ultimately continue to stay safe and maintain social distancing.
Policy Two: Against the backdrop of presidential restriction of interstate movements, the second important thing is for the government to ensure removal of all obstacles hindering the free and easy movement of goods especially agricultural and medical across borders. While the measure is commendable, it should be pointed out, however, that the enforcement of this policy is a major challenge for farmers, drivers and delivery agents working with e-Commerce companies.
From Ile Ife to Owena, Benin City to Ughelli, truck drivers and delivery agents on essential duties of transporting agricultural products to city centres such as Lagos and Abuja meet difficulties imposed by security agents enforcing the interstate restriction. Even within cities, last-mile delivery workers and those providing logistics and supply of essentials such as groceries, food items and products like electronics have it rough in the hands of security operatives. They are sometimes extorted, harassed, delayed or threatened with arrest if they fail to ‘cooperate.’
This ugly trend, if it is not checked fast by the government agencies, poses a major threat to meeting the critical logistics and supply of essentials such as agricultural produce at a peculiar time like this. It can also erode the gain of leveraging e-Commerce as the key driver of social distancing that has been proven to reduce the rate of transmission of coronavirus. It could also, in the long-term, rob Nigeria of the benefits of optimising the potential of e-commerce as a key driver of the digital economy, which is paramount to the Federal Government’s economic diversification policy.
On a final note, any act that could cause people to return to brick and mortar malls or stores would certainly erode the sacrifice of our frontline heroes and essential service providers such as doctors, nurses and other first responders, who are in the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.
As essential services providers and humanitarian workers, the daily commute of last-mile and logistics workers should be stress-free at this crucial time, and indeed, at other times. It is imperative, therefore, for the government to ensure adequate safety and protection of all workers in the logistics and last-mile value chain including drivers, delivery agents and riders working with e-Commerce operators such as Jumia and others.
With community transmission of COVID-19 escalating, unhindered access of Nigerians to the services of essential services providers like e-Commerce operators is more compelling as online shopping holds the ace to discourage human movement and bolster social distancing.
By Ayomide Oriade
Come After Me If You Can, Bakare Dares Top FG Official
Serving Overseer of Citadel Global Community Church, formerly called The Latter Rain Assembly Lagos, Pastor Tunde Bakare, has dared an unidentified official of the Federal Government to come after him based on his recent public pronouncements.
Speaking on Sunday during a sermon in his church, Bakare said: “I dare you to come after me since that is the usual style now. You might have done it to others; you are about to learn a lesson if you touch me.”
He added: “If you know what I have done in secret, bring it to the open. I dare you to come after me if you can. I worked with you; I worked for you; I supported you to get there (where you are). When I talk now, I now have a smelly mouth.
“I’m not interested in meeting you any longer; no more visits. Now, it is war, because Nigeria must be set free.”
Rather than work towards justice, he accused the Federal Government of using intimidation and brutality.
Bakare, who was running mate to President Muhammadu Buhari on the platform of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in 2011, recalled how he backed the unnamed top official to his current position.
Addressing the official, Bakare added: “Have you forgotten that you vowed never to contest again. I said ‘not so’. I showed you how you can win the next election and you agreed to run and you won. I was not considering myself but concerned about how Nigeria can become great.
“Winning an election is a different thing; doing the right thing is another. No one must behave as if Nigeria is a personal property. Nigeria must be set free and any obstruction along the way must be removed; it must get out of the way.”
He told Nigerians to be prepared for baton of change, recalling how he pronounced the late Gen Sani Abacha’s days numbered during his fist rule.
“I don’t support any act of violence, taking up arms against the country and killing people. Those are in the realm of criminality and anybody doing that must be brought to book,” Bakare stated to a rousing round of prayers and declarations.
BREAKING: Buhari Departs To London For Medical Check, Summit
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), will leave Abuja today for London to see his doctors and participate in the Global Education Summit on Financing Global Partnership for Education 2021-2025.
This was contained in a statement by the president’s media adviser, Femi Adesina.
He is expected to be back by the second week of August 2021.
The statement read, “President Muhammadu Buhari will today Monday July 26, 2021, travel to the United Kingdom to participate in the Global Education Summit on Financing Global Partnership for Education (GPE) 2021-2025.
“The Summit, which will be co-hosted by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, and the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, will bring together Heads of State and Government as well as stakeholders and youth leaders, and provide a platform for partners to chart a way forward towards transforming education systems in partner countries, through exchange of best practices.
“It will also offer the opportunity for leaders to make 5-year pledges to support GPE’s work to help transform education systems in up to 90 countries and territories.
“Deliberations at the Summit will focus on: The Power of Education –A Conversation between Global Champions; Transforming Education for Girls; Financing for Impact and Recovery and; What Now? Priorities for Transforming Education in the Coming Five Years, among others.
“President Buhari will also hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
After the Summit, the President will spend a few days for an earlier scheduled medical check-up. He is due back by second week of August, 2021.
“The President will be accompanied by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister of State Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd) and Director General of National Intelligence Agency, Amb. Ahmed Rufai Abubakar.”
SERAP, Others Drag Buhari To Court Over NBC Directive On Newspaper Review
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development have filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, over the order stopping journalists and broadcast stations from reporting details of terrorist attacks and victims.
They are asking the court to declare the order as null and void.
Joined in the suit as Defendant, is the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).
The suit followed the directive by the NBC, asking journalists, television and radio stations in Nigeria to stop “glamourising and giving too many details on the nefarious activities of terrorists and kidnappers” during their daily newspaper reviews.
In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/725/2021 filed last Friday, SERAP and PTCIJ are seeking: “an order of perpetual injunction restraining the government of President Buhari, the NBC, and Mr Lai Muhammed or any other persons from imposing fines or other sanctions on broadcast stations for carrying out their constitutional duties of reporting details of terrorist attacks and victims during daily newspaper reviews.”
They are also seeking “an order to compel and direct the NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed to withdraw the directive asking journalists and broadcast stations to stop reporting details on terrorist attacks and victims, as the directive is unlawful and inconsistent with the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended], and the country’s international human rights obligations.
“An order setting aside the directive on reporting of terrorist attacks and victims, for being inconsistent and incompatible with sections 22 and 39 of the Nigerian Constitution, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
According to SERAP, “unless the reliefs sought are urgently granted by this Honourable Court, the directive by the NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed would be used to impermissibly restrict Nigerians’ rights to freedom of expression, access to information, media freedom, and victims’ right to justice and effective remedies.”
SERAP and PTCIJ are arguing that the failure by the government to withdraw the directive, violates sections 5[a] and [b], 147 and 148 of the Nigerian Constitution, Code of Conduct for Public Officers [Fifth Schedule Part 1], and Oath of office [Seventh Schedule] of the Constitution.”
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP and PTCIJ by their lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, read in part: “The NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed lack the power and authority to restrict the ability of journalists and broadcast stations to carry out their constitutional duties and to unlawfully impose penalties such as fines and other sanctions on any journalists and broadcast stations for reporting on details of terrorist attacks and victims in the country.”
“SERAP and PTCIJ together with several millions of Nigerians easily access information, news and form opinions on government policies through the daily newspaper reviews by journalists and broadcast stations in Nigeria.”
SERAP believes that while the NBC has the powers to make rules to enable it perform its statutory functions under section 2 [a] to [u] of NBC Act, such statutory powers ought to be exercised in line with the Nigerian Constitution, and the country’s international human rights obligations.
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