Legal luminary, Femi Falana (SAN) on Sunday, gave an alarming insight into the fight against coronavirus in Nigeria.
He complained that rich Nigerians who had tested positive for the disease were shunning government-approved Isolation Centres and were using unapproved private hospitals for treatment.
Falana, in a piece titled ‘Official impunity and hypocrisy in the fight against COVID-19’, cited the case of Abba Kyari and urged President Muhammadu Buhari to probe the death of his late Chief of Staff.
Falana declared that coronavirus was on the increase due to inconsistency, double standards of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and lack of coordination on the part of the government.
“Without any scientific basis whatsoever, the federal government decided to limit the imposition of lockdown to the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun States. Other state governments decided to impose partial restrictions in their areas of jurisdiction in order to prevent the spread of COVID 19.
“However, northern governors have since announced their decision not to impose any lockdown on the region. Based on this, members of the public have been mounting pressure on FCT, Lagos and Ogun authorities to lift the extended lockdown imposed by President Buhari on Monday, April 13, 2020,” he said.
The lawyer lamented that against the NCDC directive, Abba Kyari was allowed to be treated in a private hospital in Ikoyi, Lagos, and that since then, influential patients have insisted on treatment in such facilities without official authorization.
Quoting the Health Minister, Osagie Ehanire, who asserted that “no private hospital that has been accredited to manage COVID-19 cases in Nigeria”, Falana stressed that Abba Kyari’s death “ought to be investigated by the Federal Government.”
The rights activist further stated that it was impunity to have allowed a crowd to participate and witness the interment of the late Chief of Staff remains in violation of safety precautions.
“Upon the conclusion of the ceremony, video clips have been trending in the social media showing the crowd and serial breaches of the NCDC guidelines by highly placed officials and other members of the public at the burial site.
“Some governors have suspended lockdown for Juma’at prayers at a time that the authorities in Saudi Arabia have banned any gathering for prayers and pilgrimages. In view of recent reports which have confirmed community transmission of coronavirus, lifting of the ban for religious purposes ought to be reviewed.”
The SAN recalled that the governments of Ondo, Ogun, Rivers States, among others, had lifted the ban on religious gathering for Easter celebrations and had to reverse the decision based on the advice of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA).
The foremost legal practitioner said with the disturbing increase in cases and expert warnings, the fight against coronavirus should be carried out in a more organised manner by the Federal Government and the state governments.
He noted that “Since public hospitals are in shambles, the NCDC cannot afford to combat COVID-19 in a slip shot manner. The NCDC should henceforth operate without bending the rules to satisfy partisan political interests. In particular, it must ensure that the burials of all other victims of COVID-19 are carried out in strict compliance with the prescribed rules”.
Falana expressed worry about the lack of coherent COVID-19 policy, noting that this puts to question the seriousness of the Nigeria government in the global fight against the pandemic.
“President Buhari has paid a glowing tribute to the late Mr. Abba Kyari. But the greatest tribute that can be paid to the deceased and other citizens that have lost their lives on account of COVID-19 complications is that Federal, State and Local Governments must embark on fixing and equipping public hospitals without further delay,” Falana added.