By Ememobong Okon

Guild of Community Development Advocates in Akwa Ibom State under the aegis, Akwa Ibom State Civil Society Organizations, has expressed concerns on the management of COVID 19 pandemic and sharing of palliative to the 3000 villages in the State.

In a Statement signed by the Chairman, Harry Udoh, the Secretary, Dr. Nsekpong Udoh and others, the CSOs condemned the opacity shrouding information on the management of Coronavirus.

Read the statement below:

We appreciate the actions taken by the state government to limit and mitigate further transmission of COVID19 in the state through the establishment of various committees. We also commend the decision of the state government to provide palliative support made up of food items to 3000 villages in the state. While the Akwa Ibom State Civil Society Organizations Forum appreciate the state government’s intentions for the health, security and welfare of its citizens, we are, however, constrained to note as follows:

The opacity shrouding information on the management of the COVID19 pandemic in the state leaves much to be desired. Since the announcement of the 5 index cases in the state, there has been no follow up information on contact tracing, number of persons tested. More especially, considering that the index cases were said to be asymptomatic, the number of contacts they would have had before detection can only be imagined, especially considering that they are said to be medical professionals. The situation has led to the preponderance of rumors and fake news on social media causing panic and undue worries among the populace.

The level of sensitization and awareness creation, especially in rural communities isn’t commensurate with the seriousness that Covid19 should be accorded.

The relief materials distributed were so inadequate that it seemed to mock the people rather than alleviate their adverse condition at this time. And it has the potential to further alienate the people from the government.

The decision to send relief materials to the villages implies that the government did not take the urban poor, who may be experiencing more misery, into consideration.We further note with dismay that the Local Government COVID19 Relief Material Committee consisted largely of members of the ruling party in the state. Constituting such highly partisan committee to handle relief materials for the citizens of the state may not have been the best approach at this time. A more broad-based committee made up of critical stakeholders including private sector practitioners would have sufficed. We are also surprised to note that the state government managed to overlook the Media and Civil Society actors, and failed to leverage on their expertise at this critical time when their services could tremendously contribute to winning the fight against the rampaging corona virus.

We also note that the value of COVID19 expenditures in the state has not been made public. For instance, did the state receive support from the Federal government? How has the state derived the funds it is spending, is there a budget estimate for COVID19 expenditures currently being made?We are equally surprised to note that as of this moment, the state is yet to come out with a post COVID19 stimulus programme for citizens. The world bank has declared that the world economy will retract by 3% as a result of this pandemic. The state’s unemployment rate, which has been high is bound to get worse as many in the private sector are certain to lose their jobs. In the light of the foregoing, and after due consultations with our members, we make the following suggestions:

1. Government should increase accountability and transparency measures in its COVID-19 Intervention funds utilization.

2. Put in place monitoring mechanisms towards ensuring that funds meant for the Covid19 intervention are accounted for and used judiciously.Promote equal and improved health care interventions for all victims of COVID-19.Expand the space for citizen’s participation in the intervention in demanding for transparency and accountability in the health sector towards reducing inequality experienced in that sector.

3. The state government must ramp up equitable distribution of relief materials to citizens including vulnerable urban households.

4. The inclusion of media and civil society actors in the various COVID-19 task forces across board to strengthen transparency, accountability and diversity in the process.The decentralization of the task force to meet local government needs and deal with specific challenges. And council Chairmen must be made to champion awareness and sensitization campaigns in their council.

5. The ministry of transport and local government revenue committees should desist from their activities at this time as it negatively impacts the already emasculated and vulnerable citizens at the bottom of the economic pyramid. Security Personnel enforcing the lockdown should be made to desist from exploiting the situation to further exacerbate the misery of citizens by extortion at the various road blocks.

6. Provision of more proactive, practical and measurable steps or actions using data and info graphics to communicate to the people at both the city centers and rural communities. The state government should announce a post COVID19 stimulus plan to help businesses revive as a booster for the economy. Government is encouraged to consider paying stipends to citizens, especially those in the informal sector whose businesses have been shut down as a result of the pandemic as well as all vulnerable groups who have been adversely affected. We call on citizens of the state to more than ever support efforts by government to mitigate this unfortunate situation by complying with directives and staying at home as long as it is necessary. In conclusion, there is no better time than now for citizens to show forth their humanity to fellow citizens as we work to overcome this pandemic. Together we will overcome!



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