Lagos based Renowned Human Right Lawyer and Chief Executive Officer of International Center For Human Rights, Non Violence And Safety Awareness, Barr.Ene Sarah Unobe has call on Federal and State government to be more considerate in their planning and as well think outside the box in the provision of stimulus and palliative for Nigerians and the less privileged during the total lock down in the country
In the press statement made available to us, she has commended the government on their efforts in confronting the present global health challenges and combating the pandemic called COVID-19
According to her, one of fantastic steps made by the government is the forced lockdown of the country’s social, economic, and other spheres of interpersonal relationships in order to combat the spread.
It is obvious that government’s “restriction of movement order” which includes the directive for citizens to stay at home (in order to contain the spread), is in good faith. But the lockdown, no doubt, is taking its toll on individual, and families’ efforts to meet basic obligations such as feeding, clothing, shelter, business and other contractual commitments including but not limited to rent, bank loans, health insurance, etc. it is a notorious fact that, in Nigeria, one gainfully employed individual feeds not less than ten others.
While some in the formal or organized private sector can still manage to eke out monthly salaries and, maybe, other incentives to their employees, those in the informal medium and small scale businesses are finding it very difficult to make ends meet. There is no gainsaying that petty traders among other poorest of the poor, live on their “daily bread”. This lockdown means there is nothing to look up to. They therefore cannot but rely on government’s promise of economic relief and palliatives.
Without delving into the adequacy (or lack of it) of the promised incentives, it is our submission that food supply cannot satisfy the direct and indirect losses of this category of Nigerians. Good as this basic necessity is, other disruptions occasioned by this sudden clampdown have to be looked into by government in order to properly manage the lockdown order and the post-COVID 19 socio-economic upheavals that will erupt such as:
Accumulating bank Charges.
Loss of jobs.
Other forms of indebtedness or financial obligations.
As a human right NGO, we have been inundated with communications by distressed Nigerians who have started falling victim of assorted economic problems associated with this unforeseen shutdown. As we write, these pressures and agitations are becoming unbearable and may force otherwise law-abiding citizens into lawlessness thereby causing social disequilibrium.
We therefore call on government to take the following decisive actions:
Give directives that landlords should observe moratorium on payment of rents for at least three months starting from April 2020.
As a consequence, law suits by landlords on recovery of premises at this time should be discouraged for the same period of time.
Contractual obligations to banks and other financial institution on loans should be relaxed.
Government’s rates and taxes that directly impact on the poor and private sector should be suspended or reduced to the barest minimal for the time being.
Massive financial support for the organized private sector to enable them pay salaries of their staff and other operational cost.
Protection of workers in the private from employers who may take undue advantage of the pandemic and lockdown order to sack workers without compensation.
Give directive to security agents to protect the human rights of every citizen and punish officers who have gone beyond their brief.
Give directive to citizen to avoid any form of domestic and sexual violence especially during this lockdown period.
In this regard we commend the moves by the federal House of Representatives to cause a 2-month moratorium on payment of electricity charges by Nigerians.
These suggestions are in no way trail-blazing as some African countries like South Africa and Ghana are already in the tow.
We believe that our aforementioned suggestions will go a very long way in calming frayed and worried nerves of Nigerians as they will be more amenable to government directives that they should stay at home.
We encourage Nigerians to:
STAY AT HOME.
Engage in regular washing of hands.
REFRAIN from touching their eyes, nose, and mouth.
Practice social (physical) distancing.
Observe other guidelines and precautions by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Nigeria Centre for Diseases Control (NCDC) and other relevant government agencies.
We believe that, with our collective efforts, COVID-19 will soon be behind us and Nigeria will resume its boisterous social life and mend all the interpersonal dislocations forced down our throats by this novel pandemic.