Governors in the 19 northern states of the federation have said states in the region cannot afford lockdown, noting that the development would come at a high cost.
The governors, acting under the aegis of Northern Governors’ Forum, took the position, as one of the decisions at a meeting of the Forum held via teleconference, presided over by the chairman and governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, on Monday night.
Their position did not go down well with those on the frontline in the fight against COVID-19, including the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, and Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, NANNM, who described it as dangerous to their operations.
The health professionals’ fears were also echoed by Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF; Northern Elders Forum, NEF; and Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere.
But the governors in a statement by Macham Makut, Director of Press and Public Affairs to Plateau State Governor, also agreed to approach the federal government for funds since the preventive measures they had put in place “have eaten deep into the pockets of the states.”
The governors resolved to strengthen preventive measures through enhanced boundary controls and surveillance. They also pledged greater collaboration to ensure there was synergy among them in the fight against COVID-19.
The Northern govs’ decisions The statement read: “We agreed that at the moment, each state would adopt the measure suitable to its setting because total lockdown of the region will come at a very high cost since most of our citizens are farmers who need to go to farms since the rains have started.
“Among other decisions taken at the meeting was the setting up of a 7-man committee chaired by governor of Kebbi State Atiku Abubakar Bagudu, to fashion out the way forward. Other members are governors of Kaduna, Sokoto, Kwara, Nasarawa, Jigawa, Gombe and Nasarawa states.
“The committee, among other issues, would look at the economic impact of COVID-19 on the region and take a holistic look at the economic prospects of the region, with a view to repositioning it for less reliance on federal allocation and to prepare for the future by diversifying to areas of comparative advantage, such as agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and human capital development.
“The meeting, which was conducted via teleconference and chaired by the Forum’s Chairman, Governor Simon Bako Lalong of Plateau State, also discussed the various measures put in place to curtail the spread of coronavirus and how the pandemic has affected their people as well as experience sharing on measures adopted by individual states to curb the spread of the virus.”
“After receiving reports from various states, the Forum resolved to strengthen preventive measures against the pandemic through enhanced border controls and surveillance as well as greater collaboration to ensure that there is synergy among them in movement restriction.
“They observed that so far, the lockdown measure in some states in the region has had varying levels of success, but also raised concerns that enforcing cross-border movements remains a challenge as some of the cases recorded in some states were imported from outside, despite the closure of borders by states.
“The Northern Governors also commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the measures taken so far to deal with the pandemic and promised to do their part in working with the Federal Government to contain the disease.”
Not all states are on lockdown — Presidency
Reacting to the governors’ position yesterday, the Presidency said it was not the entire country that was under the lockdown order of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The President had in a nationwide broadcast on Monday, extended the lockdown order for Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja for another 14 days as a measure to contain spread of the dreaded virus.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina, said President Buhari was specific on the states affected by the lockdown order.
He said: “It is not the entire country that is under lockdown. He mentioned the states that are under lockdown and he commended the states for what they are doing.”
It’s a danger signal to the health system, nation development – Nurses
But reacting to the issue, the National President, National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, NANNM, Comrade Adeniji Abdul Rafiu, described the governors’ stance as a danger signal to the health system of the country and nation’s development.
Abdulrafiu, who disagreed completely with the governors, said: “I am surprised that the chairman of the Forum who came from Plateau State where a case of COVID-19 has been confirmed, could support such a decision.
“The number of cases in Kastina is going up, Kaduna is not left out, Kano is also with an index case, I can’t reason along with them not embarking on lockdown; probably they are thinking that the disease is far away from most of them.
“We must know that the disease doesn’t need to take permission before it enters anywhere. It is better to take this measure as a control measure than to be preparing for victims of COVID-19.
“If superpowers in the world are suffering and they are shivering, then what do we say about the cheap health facilities that we have all over Nigeria and specifically in some parts of the country where their governors are saying they are not going to lockdown?
“I see it as a decision that will not go well with our own professional association. The situation is that they are going to create more jobs for our people to do. It is a danger signal to the health system of Nigeria and nation’s development.
“We are not accepting it because as National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, everything will eventually fall on us. We don’t like such idea. Let everybody maintain social distancing; let everybody adopt a measure that will contain the spread of the virus. We are appealing to them to reconsider their stand.’’
It means increase risk for medical doctors, health workers — NARD
On his part, the National President, National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, Dr Sokomba Aliyu, said the governors’ position meant increased risk for medical doctors and other health workers in the region.
“That means the governors are not seeing it the way other Nigerians are seeing it. This disease is real and I don’t know why people do not believe that it is real and can kill? Even though, it does not kill as much as Lassa fever, it is deadly and infectious.
‘’It is unfortunate they don’t see it that way. With their decision, that means the disease will spread rapidly and uncontrolled in such a way that it may overwhelm the health system in the northern region and, by extension, the entire country.
“I hope they reconsider their decision. Perhaps the reason they may have come up with such decision is because they don’t want to live up to their responsibility of providing stimulus package to the indigenes of those various states. They have resorted to let them go their normal business. This is where leaders don’t want to take responsibilities.”
He further appealed to the Federal Government to overrule the decision of the governors and impose same measure they did in states such as Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to save the lives of Nigerians in the north.
“We have suggested that it is not yet time to ease lockdown. We said we don’t want Chinese doctors, they brought them. We just hope the worst don’t come staring us in the face. Their decision may also affect those in the South too.
“I hope the federal government will over rule that decision and extend the lockdown to the northern parts of the country to save the lives of people living in the north.”
States should take necessary measures to stop the spread — NMA
Also reacting, the National President, Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, Dr Francis Faduyile, said he was yet to get information from his members in the affected states but advised that states should take necessary measures to stop the spread of the virus.
“Those states still need to follow the method of containing the spread. I have not got any information from those states but where we are, they may not need to lockdown the whole states but they may be able to reduce movement in those areas.
‘’During Ebola, Lagos was not locked down. My advice is for the state governments to follow procedures in containing the spread of the disease in their states.”
Northern Govs are looking for excuses — NEF
Spokesman Northern Elders Forum, NEF, Dr.Hakeem Baba Ahmed, said the governors were looking for excuses.
He said: “Yes, total lockdown will affect farming only if we keep approaching safety and protection measures the way we are doing. First, lockdowns are not intended to last forever.
“Their purposes is to limit community spread and identification, isolation and treatment of infected persons. Our governors are not using the powers and the resources available to ensure effective lockdown,so they are looking for excuses.
“There is enough time for effective lockdown before commencement of planting in most parts of the North. But we are losing precious time with weak political will and failures to support lockdown with the resources they need.
“In three weeks time, it may be more difficult to control both the pandemic and avoid food insecurity. Remember, the North already has vast tracks of abandoned farmlands as a result of insecurity.”
We don’t entertain governors’ fears at all —ACF
In a similar manner, National Publicity Secretary of Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, Mr. Emmanuel Yawe, said Nigerians should be careful not to allow COVID-19 run riot in the country, stressing that lockdown remained the most effective way of checking the disease in urban areas.
He said: “Our position is that the adverse effect of COVID-19, if it is allowed to run riot, will far outweigh whatever the government is doing. In any case, most of the farming in Northern Nigeria is done in the rural areas.
“This lockdown is mostly in the urban areas, we don’t see how, if you lockdown the urban areas, activities in the rural areas will be affected. We don’t entertain that fear at all.”
North trying to drag the South back — Afenifere
Reacting to the Northern Governors’ remark, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, said it was an attempt by the north to drag the South back. Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin, who faulted the remark, said:
“We are about to see the consequences of uneven development of keeping two different nations in one country, with one dragging the best to the level of the rest.
“What is the sense of using koboko to keep the South at home and leaving the north to roam about? Are we going to erect a wall so that the North that refused to keep social distance will not infect the South? We have said that Nigeria, as constituted, cannot work and here we are.”