The Civil Society Alliance Against COVID-19 (CSAA COVID-19), a coalition of 70 civil society groups and individual activists, has written an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari to remove Boss Mustapha as chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and replace him with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
In an open letter to the president, dated April 21, 2020, the civil society alliance accused Mustapha of mismanaging the COVID-19 response, particularly failing to follow its own guidelines during the burial of the president’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari.
It demanded, “Urgent and better coordination to assist those already being impacted by the COVID-19 recession. Nigeria should immediately consider welfare payments to the unemployed and tax payers below a reasonable income level which could utilise technology and the increasing amount of data gathered by government using BVN where individuals and communities should be able to register online and offline for assistance.”
The group also called for partial re-opening of the judicial system in keeping with the need for rule of law and security measures. “We can, as much as possible, make use of the internationally proven approaches for remote hearings,” it said.
It also called on the president to designate high-level scientific advisers to work with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and fund the Academy of Science to work with relevant agencies on researching possible cures and the approval of rapid diagnostics tests (RDTs).
CSAA COVID-19 asked the president to “impose lawful consequences on those who recklessly endanger others by disobeying NCDC guidelines so that such behaviour does not continue with impunity.
The alliance stated, “As such, we call for an investigation into, and prosecution of, the following groups of people: (1) the security personnel responsible for the extra-judicial killings of 18 Nigerians under the guise of enforcing the lockdown; and (2) those who organised and supervised the funeral of Mallam Kyari.
“We therefore call for the removal of the Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 for the lack
of leadership he displayed which has the potential to damage all the work the NCDC and other institutions,
Including civil society are doing to prevent the spread of the virus.”
CSAA said, “We join the call of Nigerians to immediately quarantine EVERY ONE that attended the final rites for
Mallam Kyari. We were saddened and disgusted as we watched the Federal Government, including the
Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, on national television, violate its own recommendations on social distancing and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). It introduces a huge credibility gap in the government’s efforts to manage this pandemic.
On the response to the pandemic, it noted that while it acknowledged the recommendation of the World Health Organisation and the NCDC on enforced social distancing, “we also call on the Nigerian government to be sensitive to Nigeria’s collective reality and heed recent warnings from the World Bank against prolonged lockdowns which put the subsistence of millions at risk (Africa’s Pulse: An Analysis of Issues Facing Africa’s Issues, World Bank, April 2020).
“We indeed have noted with grave concern the tremendous hardship placed upon Nigerians by the current lockdowns across the country. Over 80 per cent of Nigerians work in the informal sector, and rely on their daily earnings for survival. They have been confined to their homes and communities under these stay-at- home
orders for weeks now, oftentimes without food, access to water or proper sanitation, electricity or healthcare.”
The coalition said safety nets required include access to basic needs as food, water, sanitation and security which are the legitimate entitlement of every citizen adding that any plans for a prolonged lockdown without efficiently and transparently administering these safety nets could create “a cure that is as bad as the illness.”
It also raised the alarm at the increasing insecurity and the unleashing of COVID19-lockdown related violence against Nigerians by both criminal groups and security forces which could precipitate a serious breakdown of social order.
“We now have daily reports of increases in armed robberies, gang violence, gender-based domestic violence, extortion and extrajudicial killings. Nigerians have been rendered ‘sitting ducks’, unable to leave their homes, vulnerable and without adequate protection. We also note that some communities have had to form ad-hoc vigilante groups in a bid to protect themselves from armed robbers – a move that has the potential to further exacerbate rising levels of violence,” the coalition said.
These issues, it said, “make it imperative to scrutinise the response of both the federal and state governments to
COVID-19 towards taking decisive and constructive actions to stem the rising tide of social unrest in the
country and forestall any more loss of lives and property from mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, with deliberate consideration to protect Nigeria’s vulnerable populations.
“A complete breakdown in law and order will overwhelm any official response to the pandemic.”