As Kano records its first case of the dreaded Corona Virus, the Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED) has written an open letter to the governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, warning of dire consequences for public health if citizens continue to flout directives on social distancing. The open letter signed by CHRICED Executive Director, Comrade Dr. Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi lamented that contrary to orders given to citizens in the state to desist from gathering in large numbers, most residents were not heeding the government’s directives, just as it bemoaned the lack of enforcement by the government itself. Unfortunately, there is no visible effort on the part of the government to enforce its own orders. The frontline human rights organization said from its observations, large social gatherings including weddings, naming ceremonies, and congregational prayers have continued with active participation of some key government officials.
The grouped said: “Across many play grounds, youths continue to engage in daily games of football, even though the rest of the world has put a stop to sporting activities due to the ravages caused by this COVID-19 pandemic. The transport services, particularly the tricycle (Keke) riders continue to violate the social distance order by overloading passengers. These trends portend very serious implications for public health and safety in Kano State, the most populous state in Nigeria, which could have a higher burden to cope with should preventive measures be undermined and allowed to fail.”
The group said while the government’s effort to mobilize both financial and material resources in readiness for containment efforts was commendable, it was concerned that the efforts could be easily undermined, if teeming numbers of citizens refuse to do the needful in terms of strictly following stay-at-home orders and social distancing directives.
“From our close observation, it appears the vast majority of Kano citizens have dismissed the possibility of the COVID-19 outbreak in the State, and have merely taken the stay-at-home orders as an extended holiday by engaging in normal socializing, in defiance of laid down protocols. With multiple media reports recently indicating the death of a man who was in self-isolation in Gwammaja area, the need for utmost vigilance, cannot be over emphasized.”
Similarly, the frontline human rights organization drew the government attention to its observation that citizen apathy and the unresponsive posture to the directives of the government, come from a combination of lack of awareness and misinformation. It said: “While many citizens we interviewed clearly do not understand the danger posed by COVID-19, how it is transmitted, and what to do to prevent it, others who have some information about it, get their knowledge from the wrong sources. Many citizens are depending on fake news sources, which make unverified claims that the disease cannot come to Kano. This information gap on COVID-19 needs to be urgently addressed using a comprehensive and robust communication strategy involving the government, civil society organizations, and community gate keepers. Such sensitization campaign will help stimulate the interest of citizens and get them to focus on the clear and present danger posed by this dreadful COVID-19 pandemic.Consistent messaging using the whole of government, whole of society approach, would better prepare citizens to take the right steps to prevent, and if necessary, mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Kano.”