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Experts seek openness in management of COVID-19 pandemic

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CSOs urge govts to introduce anti-body testing to curb stigmatisation

Eggheads in information technology have urged the Federal Government to be more open in the management of COVID-19.

The experts, who participated at the two-day first international e-conference of the School of Information Technology, Federal Polytechnic, Oko, Anambra State, also sought a more decentralised COVID-19 management regime to help rural dwellers.

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The call was encapsulated in a communique signed by the conference Chairman, Dr. Onyeka Uwakwe and Secretary, Mr. Otuu Obinna Ogbonnia.

The conference was chaired by Rector of the polytechnic, Dr. Francisca Unoma Nwafulugo while the Dean, School of Information Technology, Dr. Onyeka Uwakwe, gave a welcome address.

Dr. Christopher I. Ochonogor, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Linguistics and Communication Studies, University of Port Harcourt, delivered the first lead paper on “Meeting the Challenges of Sustainable Development through Communication” while Mr. Kossy Ebunilo presented the second lead paper on the topic “E-Learning, Coronavirus Pandemic and Polytechnic Education in Nigeria: The way forward,” among others.

The participants argued that the secrecy with which government agencies manage COVID-19 might lead to secret manipulations and sensitisation.

Meanwhile, a coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has tasked the federal and state governments to complement the current testing process with massive anti-body testing to enable Nigerians to know the extent of exposure of citizens to the coronavirus pandemic.

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They said the antibody testing would not be subjected to undue stigmatisation that is currently hampering tracing, testing, and isolation of infected persons.

They also urged the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to make public the status of human rights abuses documented during COVID-19 pandemic on a regular basis, while calling on security personnel to focus on enforcement of the prevention guidelines rather than using the enforcement as legalised means of public extortion.

The CSOs, numbering over 30, made the submission at a virtual meeting, yesterday, in Abuja with the topic “Unveiling of Automated Complaint Reporting Database and Training of Human Rights Desk Officers in Nigeria” organised by CLEEN Foundation.

Executive Director, CLEEN Foundation, Dr. Benson Olugbuo, who spoke on behalf of the CSOs, said its observers in different parts of the country reported that Nigerians had become tired with the non-pharmaceutical methods of preventing the spread of the virus through wearing of face masks and adhering to physical and social distancing.

He said that the stigma associated with the coronavirus had made it difficult for citizens to go for testing unless it is by compulsion or they have become very ill.

According to the associations, there is the need for the federal, state governments and key stakeholders to intensify efforts at sensitising rural communities about the COVID-19 pandemic, as many still believe it is an elitist disease that infects only the high-class of the society.

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