(L-R) Styvn Obodoekwe (Co-Chair) and Karl Chinedu Uchegbu (Spokesperson), of CSO/Media COVID-19 Situation Room, reacting on the announced lockdown of two Local Government Areas in Rivers State
From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
A coalition of Civil Society Organisations under the aegis of CSO/Media COVID-19 Situation Room, has called on the Rivers State government to review its recent announced 24 hours lockdown on Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt local government areas of the state to relieve residents of the areas awaiting hardship.
The group made the call on Tuesday while reacting on the conditions declared by the government for the total lockdown of the areas.
Speaking in a press briefing, Karl Chinedu Uchegbu (Spokesperson) who spoke for the group, noted the Rivers State Government effort to check spread of coronavirus in the state, but added that the government should not commit the masses to untold hardship and starvation.
He said: “We are concerned that instead of striving for consensus, government at all strata have continued to revel in anti-peoples’ policies and directives, without broad consultation with relevant stakeholders. This certainly is not the time government should be acting alone.
“The situation room has done its best to highlight lapses in policy articulation and implementation and has not failed to make recommendations to the Rivers state, federal and local governments on how best to navigate the myriads of challenges thrown up by the pandemic.
“We recognize how hard it is to lead in the face of these trying times and ensure that all hands are in deck to combat this deadly disease that has threatened the state. However, this is not only the time for the government to show courage and demonstrate leadership in the face of the pandemic and but also the time to show compassion, empathy and sensitivity to the plight of the ordinary people.
“While we commend government at all levels for their unwavering commitment to fighting the dreaded pandemic, we equally commend the people for their forbearance and willingness to surrender some of their rights in the collective will and effort to defeat the Corona virus.
“In the light of this, the Situation Room therefore calls on the Rivers state government to review the just announced 24 hours’ curfew imposed on the two major local government areas of the state, Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt Local Government Areas respectively”.
According to the group, “it is curious that Rivers State is tightening the screws, at a time, other countries and states are beginning to ease restrictions.”
The group also questioned the government on what parameters that is being used to impose the total lockdown in the said local government areas and also what provision the state government has put in place to ensure aggressive testing of households in other to detect who has the virus.
They however, recommended that the government should “lift the lid on the areas that presently under lockdown to allow struggling businesses to thrive. His Excellency can do well to articulate and put in place containment social guidelines in the area of which we will support the government with mass sensitization to improve adherence.
“We are furthermore strongly enjoining the State authority to see wisdom in, and allow street shops and corner markets to operate. This will manage human basic needs for daily provision with the disease containment as such mini-markets and corner shops actively takes away both pressure and need for conventional markets that draw large and consequently unhealthy human gatherings.
“There is in a similar vein, in a bid to work out workable and practical arrangement and solutions to the situation at hand, need to create some designated and moderated open spaces, where traders can modestly operate from, with security operatives attached to ensure healthy social distancing.
“That rather than muscle citizens the government should make available the common Personal Preventive kits like facemask and hand sanitizers to all in the state.
“An evaluation should be done on the closure of the borders to see its effectiveness, as it appears that despite the closure of the state borders, the numbers of cases recorded in the state has continued to rise”, the group added.