Intersociety sends SOS to NCDC, calls for three COVID-19 testing centres in Anambra ‘to avoid repeat of Kano harvest of infections & deaths’

Posted by News Express | 29 April 2020 | 377 times

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•NCDC DG, Dr. Ihekweazu

The Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & Rule of Law (Intersociety) has sent a Save Our Souls (SOS) message to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), asking it to urgently set up three testing centers in Anambra “to avoid repeat of Kano harvest of infections and deaths” as the country continues the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.   

The SOS was contained in a letter dated Tuesday, 28th April 2020, addressed to NDC Director General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu. It was signed by Intersociety’s Board Chair Emeka Umeagbalasi; Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law, Barr Obianuju Joy Igboeli; Head, Int’l Justice & Human Rights, Barr Ndidiamaka Bernard; and Head, Democracy & Good Governance, Barr Chinwe Umeche.

The rights group wrote in the letter: “Sir, apart from reminding you of the immortal Igbo adage that says that “Okuko n’ akpa nri, anya uhie ako na ya”; the unfolding circumstances in the highly vulnerable COVID-19 States and cities have made it a must and very urgent for Anambra State to be given three fully equipped and functional testing centers. The three COVID-19 testing centers, urgently needed, shall be located in Onitsha (Gen Hospital or St Charles Borromeo Mission Hospital), Awka (Amaku Gen Hospital) and Nnewi (Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital).”

On the reasons for requesting three testing centers for Anambra, Intersociety said: “The reasons are state actor and non state actor centered.  Independently speaking, the Government of Anambra State does not seem to understand the fragility of the State particularly Onitsha and its environs as ‘the gateway into the Southeast and entire old Eastern Nigeria’ and possible danger of COVID-19 explosion awaiting same. This, the Government of the day, seems to be taking for granted. The State Government recently said, “It is relaxing the lockdown in the State so as to avoid “unrest and hunger”. 

“The Government of Anambra State had claimed further that “all the 36 samples tested returned negative”; suggesting falsely that ‘Anambra is COVID-19 free’. Critics say this hasty conclusion may likely lead to collapse of Government physical structures and measures put in place to prevent the spread of the virus which can boomerang and pull the Government from its feet in case of sudden eruption of ‘harvest of infections and deaths’ as recently seen in Kano. 

“There is also no evidence on the ground in the State showing concrete commitment or realistic measures by the State Government to ensure that the State is not exploded or visited with harvest of deaths and infections following relaxation of the lockdown. As at our last checks, the State Government has relaxed its promise of ‘sowing and distributing’ “three million facemasks” to the State residents and other protective kits. Those sowed by occupational tailors have sprung up and dotted the State’s nooks and crannies.  Till date, most parts of the State are not fumigated with anti-COVID-19 diluted chemicals.

“Efforts of the State Government at monitoring citizens so as to collect and send more blood samples for COVID-19 checks as advised and encouraged by Your Center are acutely slow. Such snail pace efforts are fueled by absence of testing centers in the State which would have boosted or encouraged non state actor participation including alerting the government on any credible suspicion, etc. It must be stated that there is nothing wrong in Government of Anambra State deciding to relax its lockdown measures provided it has effective ‘Plan B’ in place in case of emergency situations.

“Non State Actor Reasons: Sir, Anambra State, particularly Onitsha and its environs are sitting on a keg of gunpowder. From our recent field findings, a good number of residents in the State particularly ‘people of zero letters’ have been brainwashed by their fanatical Christian pastors to the effect that “Coronavirus does not exist especially among the children of God”; a falsehood that has made them not to heed and adhere to the Government issued COVID-19 personal preventive measures. Some also hold that “Coronavirus is a scam in Anambra State designed by Government to siphon public funds”.

“Media reports of sabotage and rabid corruption by drafted security agents (army and police personnel) at boundaries and roads; of Government lockdown measures are no longer hidden. One of such was reported by the Sun Newspaper of 25th April 2020. The worst affected boundaries are the Onitsha Niger Bridgehead (Anambra/Delta), the Ihiala-Mgbidi (Imo/Anambra) and the Amansea-Ugwoba (Anambra/Enugu) boundaries. Through night journeys, persons from highly COVID-19 vulnerable States and cities including Kano, Lagos, Ogun and Abuja are nocturnally and maliciously allowed into Onitsha and its environs from where they disappear to other parts of the Southeast and old Eastern Nigeria, with their health or COVID-19 status unascertained.

“These nocturnal and compromised broad day travelers are likely to include COVID-19 exposed persons. Independent intelligence reaching us has disclosed that ‘for fear of being caught and stigmatized, an unspecified number of citizens of the old Eastern Nigeria residing in COVID-19 vulnerable States and cities have been finding their way into the East in the past weeks’. Citizens of Northern Nigeria including those of Kano, using their dominance in the country’s security forces, are also freely being allowed access into the East. All these are a clear indication that Anambra State particularly Onitsha and its environs are endangered and troubled.

“Finally, we humbly and with greatest respect, call on you and your Center to justly and expeditiously consider this demand of ours. We must, as a people join hands in averting the repeat of “Kano tragedy” in the East before it is too late. We have also reasoned that with a new testing center at Awka, reasonable part of Enugu State including Oji River, Ezeagu and Udi will also be served. With one in Onitsha, key part of Delta State will be served and with one at Nnewi, some parts of Imo State will be served.”

Source: News Express

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