Atiku, Alliance Call for Palliatives to Soothe Lockdown

Atiku, Alliance Call for Palliatives to Soothe Lockdown

…Want National Assembly to Endorse Stimulus Package …Canvass N10,000 Food Subsidies to 30 Million Households …Say Many Citizens Lack Financial Capacity to Endure Long Isolation As the country is on the throes of virtual lockdown as cases of COVID-19 rise, former Vice-President, Mr Atiku Abubakar and the Civil Society Alliance Against COVID-19 (CSAA COVID-19) have

…Want National Assembly to Endorse Stimulus Package

…Canvass N10,000 Food Subsidies to 30 Million Households

…Say Many Citizens Lack Financial Capacity to Endure Long Isolation

As the country is on the throes of virtual lockdown as cases of COVID-19 rise, former Vice-President, Mr Atiku Abubakar and the Civil Society Alliance Against COVID-19 (CSAA COVID-19) have strongly counsel for palliatives to cushion the effect of the lockdown being applied by many state governments to stem the spread of virus.  

Atiku applauded the various state governments that have proactively taken measures, such as issuing stay at home orders, shutting down schools, entertainment places, non-essential markets and imposing restrictions on mass gatherings, while canvassing for social distancing.

He however noted that much of the Nigerian public have a subsistence existence and may become vulnerable to protracted lockdown.

“A large percentage of our people do not have the financial capacity to withstand long periods of self isolation and even lockdown. It is, therefore, incumbent on the Federal and state governments to provide palliatives to the Nigerian people to enable them survive, even as they abide by these necessary measures put in place for their own safety,” noted Atiku, who’s also presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 general election.

The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) reveals the country now has close to 50 cases, most of it from travellers from abroad, prompting the Federal Government to close down all international flights in addition to shutting all secondary and tertiary schools. It also asked most public servants to work from home. Different state governments have also announced measures to contain the spread of the virus that has killed more than 15,000 persons across the world while close to 350,000 cases have also been recorded.

In a statement on Wednesday, the former Vice-President whose son tested positive to the virus at the weekend, said, “At an approximate 30 million households or thereabouts, government should devise modalities to distribute N10,000 as supplement for food stuff to each household, among other palliative measures, with no one left behind.

“It is thus time for the National Assembly to reconvene in an emergency session, perhaps by teleconference (in line with the demands of social distancing), to legislate a Stimulus Package Act that will cater for all Nigerian citizens.

“I also call on all Mobile Telephony Companies in Nigeria to urgently develop mobile money platforms so that government can reach the unbanked with financial assistance. I also urge these telecommunications firms to offer each of the 100 million mobile phone lines in Nigeria free credit of at least ₦1500 per mobile line, so that Nigerians who show symptoms, or those who just want information, can call the nearest available health facility, or even an ambulance service, as the case may be.

“I commend all individuals and corporate organisations who have one way or the other provided some form of relief for the Nigerian people. This is what makes Nigeria great, when we help each other at such crisis times as this, irrespective of any differences. I further call on more corporations and individuals with capacity, to assist the public in these trying times.

“To this end, Priam Group pledges N50 million on my behalf as my humble contribution to a relief Fund that will form part of the stimulus package,” Atiku said.


 Speaking in the same vein, the Civil Society Alliance Against COVID-19 (CSAA COVID-19) say “Nigeria has to now plan for the worst, which is a significant number of confirmed cases of corona spread across the country and revealing themselves over the coming 2-4 weeks. This will require an extraordinary scaling up of the capacity of the NCDC and state task forces. It will require the government, the private sector, civil society and our religious bodies to work together to ensure that testing takes place, preventive humanitarian response is coordinated, and that measures across the board are ramped up.

“As we make this call to action, we demand that attention is paid to the most vulnerable in our society. While urgent measures need to be taken, they must be well thought through and not harm low income earners and those whose very survival could easily be threatened by badly administered lockdowns. The Federal Government and States must immediately formulate and engage teams that include non-government actors capable of collaborating on this extraordinary challenge.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Alliance comprising 38 organisations and individuals, say it “received with shock the news that a number of politicians have been recklessly ignoring measures for isolation of travellers returning from overseas. Most notably, the Chief of Staff to President Buhari, and the Governor of Bauchi State, have tested positive for Covid-19.

“We are also calling attention to members of the National Assembly and Governors such as those of Abia, Enugu and Imo who have been seen at public events well within the period of 14 days since their return from overseas. Our shock stems from their having reportedly ignored established safety protocols and breezed past safety checks to which other Nigerians are routinely subjected. They have exposed an extraordinary swathe of the Nigerian government and public to risks of infection.

“At this time, we send all of our support and prayers to NCDC, the Ministry of Health, and all of the medical professionals who must put themselves at risk to address this situation. We also stand with all of those who have been in contact with politicians who have acted recklessly and must now endure testing, isolation, and probably repeated screening along with their families and loved ones.

“We now call on all Nigerians to support those who are now able to credibly lead to calmly take the necessary steps to protect our country. With the Chief of Staff’s actions, Mr President, the Vice-President, our Ministers, Governors, international partners and those leading the fight against this pandemic have been compromised. These are very difficult times and we must learn a lesson as a nation and face this crisis together with unity and determination. All those who have created risks must immediately cooperate with the authorities and not in any way slow the exercise in damage limitation, the Alliance said

Osita Chidoka

Mr Osita Chidoka, a former Minister of Aviation has also charged the state Governors to use a part of their security votes to help the vulnerable.

In a statement on his official Facebook page, Chidoka said politicians must be at the forefront of battling COVID-19 and must try to ease the hard effects it will have on the masses, imploring them to use their campaign structures in ensuring that information is shared to local communities to curb the spread of the virus.

In a statement issued by Mr Ikechukwu Okafor, his aide on Media and Publicity, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain said all politicians irrespective of party affiliation, should deploy the same ingenuity, intensity, energy and methods used during political campaigns to reach out and educate the masses on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.

He charged all public office holders to use resources at their disposal, including allowances and security votes, to provide financial support to the vulnerable in the society.

“While it is advisable that offices and markets should be closed to prevent the spread of the disease, it may be difficult to enforce. This is because about 50 percent of Nigerians are in already living hand-to-mouth in abject poverty and an inability to go out every day is already a death sentence. Many other Nigerians are daily pay workers who also need to go to work every day while the rest are a few paychecks away from destitution. As such, all Nigerians of means should look around them and provide for those who are most vulnerable during this trying period.

“We should not wait for election campaigns to share rice and other foodstuffs. Now is the time to help those who are not able to go to work.

“Absence of a comprehensive national identity system makes it impossible to transfer cash to non-civil servants, hence there is a need for all of us to draw from our common humanity and help the vulnerable. Asking citizens to stay at home without any economic palliatives is impractical and would be ignored by daily pay workers and the unemployed.”

“It is obvious to all Nigerians that the Federal Government’s best efforts will be far from being enough. Therefore, all civic-minded individuals, businessmen, philanthropists, politicians, should rise to fill the leadership vacuum. This is the time to support the poor and vulnerable brothers and sisters who will not be able to work or fend for themselves during this period”.

“I propose that State Governments should discontinue all rates and tax collections from all residents. The usual non-pension deductions from the payrolls of civil servants should be used, in this emergency situation, to fund cash transfers to all those in need who have duly registered through their town unions, traditional rulers or religious institutions. There are innovative ways of using mobile phone numbers to uniquely identify such deserving beneficiaries.

“Every state Governor should use a substantial part of their security vote to offer palliatives to the most vulnerable to ensure that our society does not degenerate to anarchy. The time to act is now.” Chidoka said

Senate President

Senate President, Dr Ahmad  Lawan, has called on the Federal Government to immediately find ways of providing relief for poor Nigerians whose daily livelihood would be affected as a result of the restriction on movement due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement by Mr Ezrel Tobiowo, special assistant (Press) to the Senate President on Thursday in Abuja, Lawan made the appeal at a meeting between leadership of the National Assembly, some Ministers and heads of government agencies.

The Senate President said that aside mulling a total lock-down of business activities in the country, a plan must be devised by the Federal Government through the release of funds.

He said specifically the funds should be for the purpose of purchasing food and pharmaceutical supplies for ordinary Nigerians, warning that not making provisions ahead of time to address the basic needs of poor Nigerians may likely lead to more problems for the government, and less result in controlling the spread of the disease.

“Our prayer is that we are able to overcome this menace of COVID-19 in good time, because it is really taking a toll on our lives.

“If we have to eventually shut down our country, then as a government we must be prepared to have some relief for the most ordinary people.

“As a government, we must find our own money to fund something for our people, because the United States of America that is talked about or the British Parliament is because this involves public funds.

“I’m not seeing anything at the moment targeted at providing some relief.

” If we lock-down Nigeria today, that will wake-up trouble, because majority of our citizens go to market everyday before they can get something to eat.

“So, you lock them down in their houses with a threat of disease and without food.

“We need to have something, a plan of some sorts, in addition to making sure we don’t lock up the farmers market for example, where people can easily go and buy something, and of course pharmacies.

“We need to have some kind of supplies to people, I don’t know how we can achieve this, but we have to be ingenious.

“This is a time to think deep and wide, to provide for our people, in order for us at least to deal with this challenge at the moment,” Lawan advised.

House of Representatives

The House of Representatives, on Wednesday passed a bill designed to cushion the effect of the pandemic.

Sponsored by the Speaker, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila and other principal officers, the piece of legislation is entitled: A Bill for an Act to Provide for Relief on Corporate Tax Liability, Suspension of Import Duty on Selected Goods and Deferral of Residential Mortgage Obligations to the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria for a Fixed Term to Protect Jobs and Alleviate the Financial Burden on Citizens in Response to the Economic Downturn Occasioned by the Outbreak of COVID-19 Disease and for Related Matters.

Part of the bill states: “Notwithstanding the provision of any other law in force in Nigeria, any employer duly registered under Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) Cap C20 LFN 2004, which maintains the same employee status without retrenching their staff as at 1st of March 2020 till the rest of the year ending 31st of December 2020 shall be entitled to 50 per cent income tax rebate on the total of the actual amount due or paid as Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Tax under the Personal Income Tax Act Cap C8 LFN 2004 (as amended).”

World Bank & IMF

In a related development, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Wednesday announced the suspension of debt repayments by Nigeria and other countries indebted to the International Development Association, known as IDA countries, to provide relief from the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The IDA, a member of the World Bank Group, is an international financial institution which offers concessional loans and grants to the world’s poorest developing countries.

According to the two Brent Wood institutions, “The coronavirus outbreak is likely to have severe economic and social consequences for IDA countries, home to a quarter of the world’s population and two-thirds of the world’s population living in extreme poverty.”

The organisations said, “With immediate effect—and consistent with national laws of the creditor countries—the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund call on all official bilateral creditors to suspend debt payments from IDA countries that request forbearance. This will help with IDA countries’ immediate liquidity needs to tackle challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak and allow time for an assessment of the crisis impact and financing needs for each country.”

Nigeria is on blend credit terms with IDA but also creditworthy for some International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) borrowing.

The two bodies also called on the G20 leaders to make the assessments, including identifying the countries with unsustainable debt situations, “and to prepare a proposal for comprehensive action by official bilateral creditors to address both the financing and debt relief needs of IDA countries. We will seek endorsement for the Proposal at the Development Committee during the Spring Meetings.” The World Bank and IMF said given the current situation, it was imperative to provide a global sense of relief for develo

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