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Government must respond to COVID-19 with anti-poverty measures, says Don

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Former Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chief, Prof. Lai Olurode, has called on governments at all levels to tackle the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), which is sweeping across the federation, with anti-poverty measures.

The University of Lagos (UNILAG) don stated that the outbreak of COVID-19 had been most devastating and largely disturbing, adding that the figures on infections and death were scaring.

He said: “Governments all over the world have generally responded responsibly, though some acted belatedly and with the attitude ‘it is not our portion’. It is unfortunate that the pressure on health facilities globally has been unprecedented.

“Health workers are in danger and casualties among them have been huge. Needed health facilities and consumables are not readily available, even in countries with robust budgetary allocations to health and with best health practices. Should Third World countries experience the outbreak of the virus on scales as in China, Italy, Spain, United States and France, the situation is better imagined than real. The health sector will just cave in.”

According to the former INEC commissioner, in Third World countries, people generally live in groups, hence person-to-person contacts are often at their peak.

“The implication for the spread of the virus can, indeed, be frightening. And as we know, it takes time for the culture to respond to new change process and attitudinal modifications that containing the virus implies. This time can be fast-tracked through repeated messages, which advocate attitudinal alterations,” he stated.

“Personally and as a sociologist, I’m uncomfortable with the use of force in ensuring compliance with government directives. Harassing street traders and the poor without providing alternative resources is not the best. The police will surely extort and seize their goods. People will become poorer.”

He advised governments to care for the most vulnerable sections of the Nigerian population, by urgently and simultaneously putting in place palliative measures that will not provoke unwarranted agonies and perhaps death.

“Persuasion and enlightenment will certainly produce better outcomes. We shouldn’t forget that many Nigerians operate in the informal sector and are largely self-employed. Their incomes get frozen anytime they are prevented from going out to advertise or sell their wares. Their businesses require personal contacts. Quarantine may thus mean acute and aggravated poverty, which may result in death.”


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