COVID-19 AND SECURITY IN AFRICA
With over five million confirmed Covid-19 cases (5,406,282) and over three hundred thousand deaths (343,562) as well as its resultant abrupt halt to economic activities worldwide, there is no gainsaying the fact that the Covid-19 outbreak is sweeping across the world with untold death and hardship. Countries grappling with an already fragile economy, especially African countries like Nigeria that rely on oil sales have been worst hit by the pandemic. In Nigeria alone, the number of confirmed cases and deaths have been on a constant rise.
Pending the development of a substantive cure or vaccine, preventative measures put in place to curtail the wide spread have included the use of facemask, social distancing, declaration of country wide lockdown and so on. While a number of countries especially the more developed nations have strictly enforced and adhered to the order, it has been a bit of a tussle for governments of African nations to force their citizens to adhere to the directive. No thanks to the widespread myth about the virus which many believe is either a European sickness or does not affect the average black man.
In a live broadcast with Global Reporters on Eyes Of Africa TV- an online news platform, the theme “COVID-19 AND SECURITY IN AFRICA”, was the subject of debate by a panel discussant made up of Ambassador Tim from Abuja, Mr Efe from Edo State, and Mr Christopher from Germany who also anchored the programme. Speaking on the theme, the panel agreed that there was an expansive lacuna observed in the enforcement of measures put in place by the health ministry in the different states to prevent the spread of the virus; as most people still go about their businesses in defiance of restriction and curfew put in place. Even though the government has placed a temporary ban on interstate travel, those who are determined to engage in these kinds of travels still do so by simply ‘settling’ i.e. bribing law enforcement agents at the different road blocks set up on the highways.
Daily, the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) continues to release data for each state with regards to the number of new cases and deaths, which is on the constant increase as observed in Lagos and in Abuja; yet, these kinds of information have in no way deterred many from engaging in risky social habits such as close contacts, handshaking, etc.
According to Christopher “there is so much doubt about the truth behind covid-19 based on how government has handled the situation. Unlike in advanced nations, in Nigeria you will notice that people who are said to be down with the virus will be dancing and eating all kinds of food in the various Centres where they had been admitted. But in Germany it is not so, those who are admitted are those who by all measures whether by medical examination or by sheer physical observations are considered sick with the virus”. Concerning implementation of government directives on facemask and social distancing, he said “In Germany, nobody will attend to you without facemask. You might walk across the street without facemask but to enter any shop or converse with anybody, you must wear facemask.”
When you consider the several video uploads on social media coming out of the isolation Centers as well as information making the rounds from notable individuals stating that the sickness might not be present in Nigeria, as some had likely termed it another means of siphoning money by the government of the day, one can then see why many Nigerians have considered this a mere rumor and would flout all rules. In fact people in isolation Centres are even said to be healthier than those at home who have been beaten black and blue by hunger and unavailability of any kind of palliative by government; although the government has said they have spent billions on palliatives.
Also speaking on the topic, Ambassador Tim stated that from the information he gathered and his personal observation, some individuals are being paid to admit that they are down with the virus, so that they could be taken to the isolation Centers in order to raise the number of patients.
Mr Efe while contributing said that in Benin, many believed the virus is an over-rated malaria sickness and should be approached as such.
While several myths about the virus is not only indigenous to Africa as has been witnessed even in western nations which are considered to have more educated populace, one thing that stand developed nations out is their strict enforcement of the different directives such as wearing of face masks, social distancing, etc., which is lacking in Nigeria as a result of the nonchalant attitude and lack of seriousness by the enforcement agencies, especially the police.
In concluding, the panel agreed that Covid-19 is real, that the different measures put in place to stem its spread are very effective in the fight against the virus, and until a vaccine is developed, those measures are all the world health system could provide for now. However, it was also agreed that the security outfit as seen in Africa using Nigeria as a case study have not lived up to their responsibilities in enforcing the various government directives vis-a-vis making citizens to adhere strictly. In some circles, it is believed that even when the enforcement agents managed to do their jobs, it came with even more devastation than the virus. In fact the Nigerian Police force are said to have killed more citizens in the process of enforcing the directive than the virus have killed.
The role of the various security outfits must be reviewed in line with global best practices that eschew brutality and killings while enforcing government directives. The Nigerian law enforcement agencies must do their jobs without fear or favour, rid themselves of the bad eggs in the force and help government stem the spread of this virus through strict enforcement. Otherwise, like Melinda Gates said, dead bodies may start lying on the streets.
By Dickson Ekhaguere