COVID-19 in Ado-Ekiti: Navigating gap between Government Efforts and Citizen Responses.
Dr Sesan Adeyemi is a lecturer in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, and a member of the Sustainable Cities and African Urbanization Dynamics and Pro-Poor Development research clusters at the University of Lagos
It is no longer news that COVID19 is a pandemic ravaging nations of the world since December 2019. Nigeria is not in any way immune to the threat this poses to the health and well-being of the people, this prompted the federal government to put measures in place to contain further spread. Some of these measures include reinvigoration of the National Center for Disease Control, establishment of a presidential taskforce, temporary closure of all international borders and schools, setting up of isolation centres and testing laboratories, imposition of lockdown and curfew in Ogun, Lagos and the FCT.
The Ekiti state Government also announced COVID19 related interventions. Specifically, the government set up an isolation centre in Ado-Ekiti the capital city, imposed dusk to dawn curfew across the state, in addition to announcing the temporary closure of state borders and major markets, ban on social gatherings and observance of physical distancing measures and use of face masks among others.
Considering these interventions, certain questions come to mind: Are the measures sufficient to contain the virus? How are these measures being enforced? How well are the citizens coping under the present condition? I will discuss this from three perspectives: Mobility, Livelihoods and Information management
MOBILITY: There were some noticeable infractions against the restrictions on movement put in place. Both private and commercial vehicles still carried above stipulated number of passengers and at the sight of security personnel, they tell the overload passengers to disembark and rejoin them later.
LIVELIHOODS: There is no doubt the fact that the lockdown and restrictions of movement have negatively affected the economy of citizens particularly the traders, artisans, private employees and casual labourers. Observation from Ado and its environs indicates that citizens, in defiance of the movement restrictions, still go to their farms. This cannot be totally divorced from the fact that Ekiti has an agrarian economy , and the planting season is ongoing presently.
INFORMATION MANAGEMENT: Interactions with people within and outside Ado-Ekiti revealed that some people are still skeptical about the truism of COVID-19 and this to a large extent influence their level of compliance to the state directives. The public channels of communication - the radio and television – are not accessible to many, nor are they running a sustained information dissemination on the pandemic. Residents are therefore going about their everyday activities without necessary precautions. For example, in defiance of physical distancing protocols youths still play football at neighborhood level and some religious organization still conduct meetings.
Ekiti State has been fortunate thus far, with few cases of coronavirus infection. However the state’s preparedness is grossly insufficient. Apart from announcing the COVID19 protocols, there has been minimal effort from the State Government to enforce. The markets lack the necessary water and sanitation facilities to enable handwashing and other hygiene practices, and the local governments lack the capacity for meaningful health messaging or public enlightenment campaigns. Furthermore, it was observed that corrupt security officials enable people to breach the state lockdown and curfew measures, by permitting vehicular movement.
Therefore, If Ekiti will not inadvertently increase her vulnerability to coronavirus infection, there is need to take action urgently. First, there is need for aggressive sensitization and enlightenment campaigns about the pandemic and the dangers that lack of compliance pose to the health and wellbeing of residents. The enforcement of the containment measures must be strengthened and sustained. Restrictions on social gatherings, religious activities and large markets should be strictly curtailed, while economic activities be permitted to operate – after taking recommended public health precautions As all infected patients so far have been travellers who came into Ekiti, the state government should set up screening/test centres in all the state borders where all persons coming into the state will be screened/tested, and their profiles documented in case there is need for contact tracing. Sanitation facilities should be provided at strategic locations and enforcement officers should be held responsible for possible breaches.
If the virus will be contained in Ekiti, a holistic multisectoral approach must be implemented that addresses gaps in mobility, livelihood and public information management.
Peterson K. O. (2020).COVID-19 in Africa: Socioeconomic Impact, Policy Response and Opportunities. SSRN Electronic Journal DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.3574767. http//wwwresearchgate.net/publication/340610720
The Premium Times News (2020). Fayemi Relaxes Ekiti Curfew Flags-off Food Distribution. Online publication, www.premiumtimesng.com
United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) (2020). The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Nigeria: A Socioeconomic Analysis. http//www.undp.org/COVID-19/socio-economic-impact.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development or the University of Lagos, Nigeria