Barrister Ene Serah Unobe, The Centre’s Executive Director
COVID-19: Centre Seeks More Palliatives For Nigerians
As Nigerians are experiencing difficult times due to the lockdown directive of the Federal government, occasioned by the emergency of Corona Virus Disease tagged COVID-19, a human rights group, International Centre For Human Rights, Non-Violence and Safety Awareness, has called on the Federal government to extend its current stimulus packages for Nigerians.
The human rights group stated this in a release captioned Urgent need for government to extend its current stimulus packages, issued and signed by its Executive Director, Barrister Ene Sarah Unobe.
Parts of the stimulus packages advocated by the Centre in the the released dated April, 10, 2020, includes giving directives to the landlords to observe moratorium on payment of rents for at least three months starting from April 2020 and to discourage law suit by landlords on recovery of premises at this difficult time.
“To direct banks and other financial institutions to relax contractual obligations on loans. And that government’s rates and taxes that directly impact on the poor and private sector should be suspended or reduced to the barest minimal for the time being.
The Centre also asked the federal government for massive financial support for the organized private sector to enable them pay salaries of their staff and other operational cost. And to protect workers both in the private sector from employers who may take undue advantage of the pandemic and lockdown order to sack workers without compensation.
It also asked the federal government to give directive to security agents to protect the human rights of every citizen and punish officers who have gone beyond their brief.
The Centre stated that with above measures, will go a very long way in calming frayed and worried nerves of Nigerians, as they will be more amenable to government directives that they should stay at home.
The Center also appreciated the steps so far taken by the federal government to curtail the spread of the virus. While also appreciated humanitarian efforts of the Individuals, Private Sectors, community leaders, NGOs and other Stakeholders for their donations and other supports to Nigeria Centre For Disease Control (NCDC).
The Centre release reads in part: “having carefully monitored and reviewed approaches adopted so far by state and Federal Government in containing the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria. We appreciate the humanitarian efforts of the Nigerian Governments, Federal Ministry of Health, Lagos State Government, NCDC, Individuals, Private Sectors community leaders, NGOs and other Stake Holders in curtailing the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria through donation and other types of supports for NCDC.
“It is no longer news that the world is facing dire health challenges with the pandemic called COVID-19. Weeks have passed and Nigeria, like other countries, has taken steps aimed at halting the spread of the virus. One of such steps is the forced lockdown of the country’s social, economic, and other spheres of interpersonal relationships in order to combat the spread.
“It is obvious that government’s “restriction of movement order” which includes the directive for citizens to stay at home (in order to contain the spread), is in good faith. This lockdown, no doubt, is taking toll on individual, and families’ efforts to meet basic obligations such as feeding, clothing, shelter, business and other contractual commitments including but not limited to rent, bank loans, health insurance, etc.
“It is a notorious fact that, in Nigeria, one gainfully employed individual feeds not less than ten others. While some in the formal or organized private sector can still manage to eke out monthly salaries and, maybe, other incentives to their employees, those in the informal medium and small scale businesses are finding it very difficult to make ends meet.
“There is no gainsaying that petty traders among other poorest of the poor, depends on daily hustling for their “daily bread”. This lockdown means there is nothing to look up to. They therefore cannot but rely on government’s promise of economic relief and palliatives.
“Without delving into the adequacy (or lack of it) of the promised incentives, it is my submission that food supply cannot satisfy the direct and indirect losses of this category of Nigerians. Good as this basic necessity is, other disruptions occasioned by this sudden clampdown have to be looked into by government in order to properly manage the lockdown order and the post-COVID 19 socio-economic upheavals that will unpaid rents, accumulating bank Charges, Bank loans, Loss of jobs, school fees and other forms of indebtedness or financial obligations.
“As human rights activists, our organization has been inundated with communications by distressed Nigerians who have started falling victim of assorted economic problems associated with this unforeseen shutdown. As we write, these pressures and agitations are becoming unbearable and may force otherwise law-abiding citizens into lawlessness thereby causing social disequilibrium.
“We therefore call on government to give directives that landlords should observe moratorium on payment of rents for at least three months starting from April 2020. As a consequence, law suit by landlords on recovery of premises at this time should be discouraged for the same period of time.
“Contractual obligations to banks and other financial institution on loans should be relaxed.
“Government’s rates and taxes that directly impact on the poor and private sector should be suspended or reduced to the barest minimal for the time being.
“Massive financial support for the organized private sector to enable them pay salaries of their staff and other operational cost.
“Protection of workers in the private sector from employers who may take undue advantage of the pandemic and lockdown order to sack workers without compensation.
“Give directive to security agents to protect the human rights of every citizen and punish officers who have gone beyond their brief.
“Give directive to citizen to avoid any form of domestic and sexual violence especially during this lockdown period”.
Barrister Unobe-led Centre, also commended both the federal and States Lawmakers for donating two months of their salaries for payment of electricity charges by Nigerians. Also, encouraged Nigerians to fully observe the ‘stay at home’ and other directives of the government which are aimed at ending the deadly disease.
“We commend the moves by the National Assembly and States House of Assembly to cause a 2-month moratorium on payment of electricity charges by Nigerians. These suggestions are in no way trail-blazing as some African countries like South Africa and Ghana are already in the tow.
“We believe that our aforementioned suggestions will go a very long way in calming frayed and worried nerves of Nigerians as they will be more amenable to government directives that they should stay at home.
“We encourage Nigerians to stay at home, engage in regular washing of hands, refrain from touching their eyes, nose, and mouth, practice social (physical) distancing, Observe other guidelines and precautions by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Nigeria Centre for Diseases Control (NCDC) and other relevant government agencies”.
Centre also states; “we shall continue to follow up on humanitarian developments and assist in providing updates on best professional strategies where necessary. We salute every Nigerian especially those at the front line workers making sacrifices to safe lives and contain this pandemic”.