By Emeka Umeagbalasi et al
… many of Nigeria’s 17,500 public officers & their families may be presently living with Coronavirus infection
… 17,500 Nigerian public officers have been forced back to Nigeria to stay at home since past 22 years
Intersociety: Onitsha, Eastern Nigeria, March 25, 2020 – As dreaded, terrifying, devastating and menacing as ‘Coronavirus’ or COVID-19 is, globally, there is ‘positive’ side of the virus in Nigeria. Whether it is a ‘US-China trade war generated’ lab-room killer-virus or a natural biological killer-virus, the pandemic has somehow become ‘a blessing in disguise’ to the long suffering citizens and political landscape of Nigeria. The ‘paradises’ (i.e. Europe, North America, the Gulf and China) of the Nigerian public office holders and their former holders have been made hellish by CONVID-19; forcing them to run back to the ‘hell’ they created back home.
It must be reminded that for the first time in the past 22 years or since 1998, most, if not all the country’s estimated 17,500 key public office holders and their former occupants have returned home to stay with the general citizens; to be confronted by the state or public infrastructures and social services they left in ruins over the decades. Negatively speaking, it may also be correct to say that many of Nigeria’s 17,500 Public Officers & their families are presently living with Coronavirus infection.
The above was the position of the Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law, as contained in a statement signed by its five principal officers: Emeka Umeagbalasi, Head of the Organization, Chinwe Umeche, Esq., Head of Democracy & Good Governance, Obianuju Igboeli, Esq., Head of Civil Liberties & Rule of Law, Ndidiamaka Bernard, Esq., Head of Int’l Justice & Human Rights and Comrade Sam Kamanyaoku, Head of Field Data Collection & Documentation.
Background of the pandemic
It is recalled that ‘Coronavirus or COVID-19 was first detected in Wuhan region of the Peoples Republic of China on 1st Jan 2020. By the updated accounts of the global medical experts, the pandemic has as at today(March 25, 2020) caused the total global deaths of 18,901 and infected 422, 732 persons. A total of 109,102 patients have recovered and been discharged while 13, 095 are in serious or critical condition and 281,634 in mild condition. The total number of the currently infected persons globally is also put at 294, 729.
The pandemic disease has been detected in 196 countries and territories with Italy, China, Spain, Iran and France topping the list of countries with highest death rates of 6,820, 3, 281, 2,991, 1,934 and 1,100 respectively. In the area of infection, China remains the highest with 81, 218 cases, followed by Italy with 69, 176 cases, USA with 54, 823 cases, Spain with 42, 058 cases, Germany with 32, 991 cases, Iran with 24, 811 cases and France with 22, 304 cases.
Others are Switzerland with 9, 877 cases, South Korea with 9, 137 cases and UK with 8, 077 cases. In Africa, South Africa has recorded 550 infections with zero deaths and Egypt 402 infections with 20 deaths. Nigeria claims ‘it has only 44 cases with two deaths’. The accurate number of infections and deaths associated with the pandemic in Africa particularly in the east, central and west including Nigeria is very difficult to ascertain. This is owing to chronic energy crisis, shambolic healthcare facilities and poor availability and functionality of the information and communication technology and its database or data mining technology.
17,500 public officers have been forced to stay at home since past 22 years
For the first time since 1998 or past 22 years, most, if not all the key public office holders in Nigeria have been forced by the pandemic to stay at home. By the provisions of the Remunerations or Salaries & Allowances of certain top Public Office Holders Act of 2002, as amended, Nigeria and its three tiers of federal, state and local government is governed by 17, 500 elected and appointed key public office holders; comprising 11,788 local government councilors, chairmen and deputy chairmen, 469 federal and 1,152 state lawmakers, a president and a vice president.
There are also 72 governors and their deputies, 172 federal top judicial officers and about 372 top state judicial officers, 43 federal ministers and heads of 469 federal ministries, departments and agencies, senior military, police, paramilitary and other security officers and over 2,700 top state executives including special advisers, commissioners and permanent secretaries, etc.
It is on record that 1998 was the year Nigeria was removed from regional and international isolationism following the commitment of the Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar led military Government to return Nigeria to civil rule. During the regional and international isolation, Nigerian military leaders and their civilian appointees were bared and isolated regionally and internationally particularly by the ‘west’ and South Africa.
But following the return to civil rule in late May 1999, Nigerian leaders let loose, abandoned the country and its governance including fixing the country’s key infrastructures and social services and relocated to the developed and other fast developing countries which became ‘their second homes’ and ‘paradises’ on earth. The country’s non debt resources got so grossly mismanaged, lavished, wasted and siphoned since 1999 that its leaders till date have resorted to deepening the country into ‘borrowing economy’ whereby loans of alarming proportions with malicious interest rates and other criminal conditions are secured yearly and squandered on profligacy and frivolities; thereby leaving the country in tatters and quandary.
In the past 22 years till date, none of the 17,500 key public office holders including those who served before them is locatable or met in office for one month without having him or she traveled abroad for leisure and pleasure. Some have gone to the extent of relocating and operating from ‘their abroad residences or hotels’; flying in and out to work. Electioneering is the only time some of them particularly the elected are seen around after which they disappear or retire to same ‘paradises’ across borders. When barely seen in the country, they would ring themselves and their family members with thousands of armed public security personnel so as to ward off citizens’ anger and resentment over their colossal failure in office.
They also prepare ‘paradises’ for their wives, children and other relatives and associates in Europe, USA, Canada, the Gulf and China where they enjoy luxury including best education, healthcare and social facilities; all maintained with the country’s taxpayers funds. These they have been doing in the past 20 years till date-thereby leaving their country and states in tatters. Today, thanks to ‘CONVID-19’, for the first time since 1998, most, if not all Nigerian leaders or political actors or members of the ruling class have been chased back home. They have been forced to return to the hell they created or built back home; all thanks to Coronavirus.
No signs of government remedial packages to contain Coronavirus
Other than verbal directives for partial shutdown of schools and Government institutions and restriction of movements, there are no signs of Government provision of remedial packages or interventions. Government both federal and state is so insensitive that preventive and precautionary therapies and kits sold at open markets have recoded gallop increases with same Government turning a blind eye. For instance, a carton of face masks sold at N10, 000 to N14, 000 in January 2020 is now sold at N80, 000 and above. The prices of sanitizers and chloroquine have also increased by 400% and upwards. The investigation into the above was carried out by Intersociety on 23rd and 24th March 2020 at the Onitsha Tools & Allied and Drug Markets. This is just to cite but few.
Many of Nigeria’s 17,500 public officers & their families may be living with Coronavirus
If not for chronic energy crisis, shambolic healthcare facilities and non availability and functionality of information communications technology and its database including data mining technology as well as lack of political will and sincerity; most Nigerians would have been shocked the more to hear that the hardest hit by Coronavirus in Nigeria are many, if not most of the country’s 17,500 public office holders or their former occupants and their families including wives, children and other close associates. It is widely believed that the true state of the Coronavirus particularly among the returnee ruling class and their families and associates in Nigeria is not being reported as it is. The country’s public institutions including its Center for Disease Control are hardly independence and lack capacity to operate without Government interference or political influence.
These are in addition to the present Government censorship and gagging of the civil space. If 35 federal legislators in the country who recently returned from their foreign trip jamboree in some highly vulnerable or highly Coronavirus infected or exposed countries could refuse to submit themselves for proper tests, what else is needed to prove the vulnerability of the country’s ruling class to the dreaded and deadly virus? This is not to talk of their children, wives and other close relatives or associates who have been living permanently in the Coronavirus highly infected countries.
The case of Governor Bala Muhammed of Bauchi and Atiku Abubakar’s son and President Buhari’s Chief of Staff and three of his staff, etc, is just the tip of the iceberg. That is to say that if proper checks and tests are conducted in Nigeria, the number of the infected persons is not only most likely to be in thousands, but will be dominant among the country’s ruling class or 17,500 top public office holders and their families. Further breakdown may most likely indicate that the key federal executives (ministers, permanent secretaries, heads of departments and agencies and top military, police, paramilitary and other security officers) and their state counterparts and federal and state elected officers including lawmakers, presidency and governors, deputy governors and their families will take the lion’s share of the infected persons. It is therefore likely correct to say that members of the Nigerian ruling or political class are now the ‘major depositors and distributors’ of the Coronavirus in Nigeria.
Has Coronavirus quarantined the Birnin Gwari ‘bandits’, Boko Haram & herdsmen Jihadists?
Average of six Christians was hacked to death daily between January and February 2020. The killings, with high casualty rates continued into the first week of March but got drastically scaled down from the second week of March; making the month of March in the end likely to record the lowest death rate in the area of killing of Christians; all thanks to ‘CONVID-19’. In all, the month of March 2020 will be ending with maximum of 40 Christian deaths mostly recorded in its first week as against average of 175 Christian deaths for Jan and Feb 2020.
In the words of the then Brig-Gen Paul Kagame during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide “the massacre has scaled down not because of changing of heart but because there are few people left to be killed”. Indeed, ‘Coronavirus’ has proved to be defensively deadlier than the combined forces and death machines of Boko Haram/ISWAP, Jihadist Herdsmen and ‘Birnin Gwari Bandits’ and their religo-political sponsors. Today, the Kaduna-Birnin Gwari Road and others have been deserted with no citizens on sight to be abducted; likewise BH/ISWAP and Jihadist Herdsmen who have also been ‘quarantined’ or cocooned by ‘the pandemic weapon of mass destruction’ called “Coronavirus”, nicknamed CONVID-19.
Editor’s Note: The views contained in the above piece and any other do not represent the views of The Neighbourhood or of her other partner companies