Bauchi COVID-19: Critical parts of the state neglected by govt, says CITAD

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A report by the Centre for Information Technology and Development, CITAD has cautioned Bauchi State government against concentrating it efforts against COVID -19 on the state capital,Bauchi alone.

CITAD in a pres statement Sunday harped among others on government’s efforts, noting however that, “Most of the activities of the committee and the government initiatives are centralized in the state capital.

“Thus, other critical parts of the state are neglected in some initiatives. This capital-centre mind set of the government can be seen from the fact that of the only three isolations centres, only the two in the state capital (ATBU and Bayara) are functional. The one that is in FMC Azare, is yet to take off as the designated building is the newly constructed eye clinic section of the hospital which has not even been handed to the government by the contractors.
CITAD also noted that, “The Hospitals in the state are not fully equipped to meet the challenges of the pandemic which limits the performance of the medical personnel and also expose them to risk. For example, Jamaare is one of the major Local Government in the state, the only General Hospital, the local government Headquarters has only 4 hand sanitizers and a packet of facemasks for the use of the health workers. In Bauchi the state capital initially the hospitals adhered to the preventive measures but this moment, we noticed empty cans of sanitizers at the entrance of some of the hospitals which shows that it was they only for decorations. More worrisome is the fact that hospitals outside the state capitals do not have PPEs for health workers.”

Read the statement below:

PRESS STATEENT BY THE CENTRE FOR INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND DEVELOPMENT (CITAD) ON THE STATE OF EFFORT TO CURTAIL THE COVID 29 IN STATE ISSUED ON THE 10TH OF MAY, 2020

The Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) has been keeping in pace with the developments in Bauchi State as they relate with the COVID 19, and especially the measures government have taken (or not taken) and the measures governments and the response to citizens to these , including their attitude to preventive measures as advised by health authorities. In in our last statement about Bauchi State, we raised concern on how the people in the state were not taking the preventive measures seriously; we cited how commercial transporters were violating the social distance strategy, how the interstate movement was going on without any hitch. Other areas concern we pointed were market places and places of worship where crowds were seen without proper observance of the preventive measures.
We appreciate the measures taken by state government later such as the partial lockdown of the state, banning commercial motorcycles, enforcement social distance in tricycles and suspension of high crowd congregations of Friday Prayers and Sunday Services. However, there are still challenges especially with the recent development in the growth of suspected cases in the state and the attitude of the citizens towards the preventive measures plus the government strategies of fighting the pandemic.
Our observations today will focus on both the citizens’ attitude to the preventive measures and the state government approach in its fight against the pandemic.

  1. GOVERNMENT APPROACH
    The Committee established by the State Government to coordinate the fight against the COVID pandemic has been working round the clock especially in the area of stakeholders’ engagement and other technical approaches; however, we note the following shortcomings.
    i. Most of the activities of the committee and the government initiatives are centralized in the state capital. Thus, other critical parts of the state are neglected in some initiatives. This capital-centre mind set of the government can be seen from the fact that the of the only three isolations centres, only the two in the state capital (ATBU and Bayara) are functional. The one that is in FMC Azare, is yet to take off as it the designated building is the new constructed eye clinic section of the hospital which has not even been handed to the government by the contractors.
    ii. The Hospitals in the state are not fully equipped to meet the challenges of the pandemic which limits the performance of the medical personnel and also expose them to risk. For example, Jamaare is one of the major Local Government in the state, the only General Hospital, the local government Headquarters has only 4 hand sanitizers and a packet of facemask for the use of the health workers. In Bauchi the state capital initially the hospitals adhered to the preventive measures but this moment, we noticed empty cans of sanitizers at the entrance of some of the hospitals which shows that it was they only for decorations. More worrisome is the fact that hospitals outside the state capitals do not have PPEs for health workers.
    i. In Azare, the second major town in the state which has a federal hospital and general hospital people in the town are bitterly complaining of the lack of preparedness of the hospitals to confront the challenges despite the fact that there are reported positive cases among the staff of the Federal Medical Centre, Azare which is now throwing fears in the minds of the people in the area on their safety in attending the hospitals with this development and low level of managerial preparedness and preventive measures in the hospitals. There have been reports that within one week, over one hundred people have died. Similar reports have been lodged from Jamaare were within five days, more 16 elderly people have dies, most of them following hospitalization at the FMC. People suspect not only ahigh level of infection among the hospital staff but that the whole environment of the hospital might have been contaminated. Again, this is not far fetched as reported have put the number of staff who tested positive to COVID in the FMC at nine, two doctors and seven nurses. This is in addition to the 12 medical doctor who have contracted the virus as announced by the State Commissioner of Health, Dr. Aliyu Maigoro.
    ii. Although the security agencies are seen everywhere within the state capital and they work to ensure motorists use face mask, this effort is not extended to the other parts of the state, thus, limiting the impact of the initiative and exposing the majority of the state to danger.
    iii. The government ban on Inter-state movement is mere pronouncement, without serious mechanisms to enforce it. As such, vehicles are seen loading in all the government recognized motor parks in Bauchi, Azare, Jamaare, Ningi to neighbouring states. Given the proximity to Kano and the high commercial and trade links between the Northern Bauchi State and Kano and the fact that the area is also the commercial gateway to the northeast, government should have been more circumspect on policing and enforcing the ban on inter-state travel. As it is there is fear that this is providing a transmission chain for the fast spread of the virus in the state. Again, this is demonstrated by the facts. Only yesterday, the state recorded 44 confirmed cases, the largest number following Lagos, even larger than Kano. As of yesterday, the state is third following Lagos and Kano on the table of confirmed cases.
    v. Although the Government has set up a huge body on Palliatives headed by the Emir of Bauchi, it has no plan for palliatives. This is why the Committee is yet to hit the ground working. One of the reasons why the government does not want enforce total lockdown is that it has no plan for palliatives. This was made clear by the State Deputy Governor as early two months ago, when the Governor was still in isolation. Yet in a twist of irony, the government that claims it has no money, has according to the State Commissioner of Agriculture, set aside N300 million to procurement agricultural inputs for farmers, Government is not shown concern for the health of the farmers but will is planning to award contract in their names. The current partial lockdown in the state is a farce. Government should take measure to enforce total lockdown given the increasing spread of the virus which has transited to community infection.

THE CITIZENS
There is an improvement in the attitude of some individuals in the state, however, majority of the citizens do not pay attention to preventive measures. CITAD noticed that:
i. There is no use of hand sanitizers or face masks in the markets and people are crowding without social distancing. People do not consider these as important. But even more importantly, hand sanitizers and facemasks are not available in rural communities, include in major towns outside the state capital such as Azare
ii. Although Friday and Sunday services are suspended in-state congregations prayers are being conducted which is contrary to the requirement of social distance initiative. For Example, Salatul Tarawih is performed in many mosques within the state capital and in all towns. Similarly, some Churches also still organize programmes not on Sundays but in other days that generate many crowds.
iii. In spite of the complains and suspicion about the possible link between the spike in the number of deaths in parts of the state and COVID 19, across the state, burials attract huge crowns as well as at condolence places where social distancing and other preventive measures are observed in the breach.
FREQUENT AND HIGH DEATH RATES IN SOME PARTS OF THE STATE
Citizens in some part of the state noticed and are complaining about the high and frequent death rate in the area in the past 10 days especially of the elderly people. This is higher in Azare and Jammare towns where such deaths are on the increase every day within the last few days. Although there is yet no established explanation for these deaths, there are speculations that the deaths may not be unconnected the COVID 19 pandemic. This development has created fears in the minds of the people in the area to the extent that recently a former Member of House of Representative, who represented Azare Federal Constituency wrote an open letter to the President, pleading with the Presidency to direct NCDC to go to Azare for massive testing and also an investigate the causes of the frequent death in the area.

RECOMMENDATIONS
CITAD wishes to call on the state government to.
i. As a matter of urgency to allow for an independent Committee to investigate the frequent death in the affected areas in the state. In this connection we call on the NCDC to send an independent panel to carry out its investigation as it did in the case of Kano.
ii. The State Taskforce Committee should ensure that all criteria and preventive measures are observed in all hospitals in the state. In particular, the state government should provide PPEs to workers at the frontline across the state.
iii. The State Taskforce Committee should set up sample collection n centres across the state to make it easier and faster for testing to done, given that there is still no testing centre. In connection with this, we would like to call on the State Government to partner with ATBU to establish a testing centre in the state. They can learn from what Bayero University Kano has done in Kano State
iv. The state government should enforce the prohibition of in the interstate movement through a partnership with the transport union in the state and punishing offenders as did in other states.
v. The state government should provide all requirements of the health facilities in the state that will make them ready to face the challenges of the pandemic
vi. The health workers the state should be properly trained in ways of responding to such emergencies and provided with PPEs
vii. The state government should partner with the private sectors and other philanthropists within and outside the state to source palliatives to complement its resources so as to provide palliatives to the needy citizens of the state
viii. The Government should without farther delay enforce as total lockdown in the state. As requirement for this, it should spell out its pollutive plans as it cannot continue to prevaricate given the implication of its failure to provide palliatives on its capacity to control the spread of the virus and on the lifes of citizens of the state
ix. The state government needs to expand isolation centres to cater for other major population centres in the state.
x. The state government should work with the Council of Ulama to ensure that the Burial Protocols as advised by both the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and the NCDC are observed. We call on individuals to the state to heed the advice contained in the protocols and ensure that at no time do they break their guards with respect to social distancing as well other preventive measures such as wearing of facemask and hand globes.
xi. The state government should devote at least 4 hours daily on the state radio stations on public enlightenment and sensitization programmes on COVID 19.
Conclusion
CITAD wishes to restate its commitment to work with all stakeholders in an effort to create synergy and complementarity so as to elevate the current weak response to the pandemic in the state. In particular, we would like to appeal to business leaders, community and religious leaders, academics, civil society organizations and faith-based organizations to come together, to pool their resources, endowments and networks to support efforts aimed at curtailing the COVID 19 pandemic in he state.

Isah Garba Azare
Acting Programmes Coordinator


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