COVID-19: People Who Look Like They’re Not Poor Also Need Support – Experts Tell Nigerian Government

Considering the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic and its lockdown on citizens, the Federal and State Governments have been urged to consider Nigerians from all walks of life in the nation’s social protection policy.

This call was made by Nkechi Ilochi-Omekedo, the Women’s Right Program Manager, for Action Aid on Thursday, May 28.

Nkechi who spoke at a Virtual Series organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) titled; “Protecting the Most Vulnerable During COVID-19: The Effect of Socioeconomic Disparities” said, those who do not look like they are poor need for some form of support.

The women’s right advocate said now is time for government at all level to rethink its governance policies and more for citizens to hold government accountable.

Recounting challenges faced during and post COVID-19, Nkechi said women and girls are worst hit as the pandemic has shown the weaknesses in Nigeria’s public structures.

“Issues concerning women have been compounded, for example, women and girls who are in abusive relationships are now confined in the same space for a long time with their abusers,” Nkechi said.

She said such issues bring to limelight challenges surrounding housing in Nigeria as the system need to be addressed to allow for a more suitable process.

Also noting that the pandemic has increased the burden of care on women and girls at the household level, the women’s right advocate said challenges associated with Wash, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) have been exposed.

“One of the primary ways of avoiding COVID-19 is washing of hands regularly with water, meaning women and girls in areas where there is no access to potable water will have to find means of fetching water daily, ” Nkechi said.

She called on government and other relevant actors in the sector to re-examine the process of making WASH services available – during and post COVID-19 pandemic.

Also speaking, Dr Dozie Okoye, an Associate Professor at Dalhousie University, Canada said more attention should be paid to urban dwellers during this COVID-19 era.

Okoye said there should plan for inclusivity in the distribution of palliatives to the Nigerian populace during this time.

Okoye, who is also a member of the Research on ImporviImproving of Education (RISE) Nigeria said: “I think that more attention needs to be paid to the urban folks in terms of palliative distribution during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.”

According to him, most urban dwellers have been limited by the lockdown as their ability to commute to work daily have been affected.

He said the working-class citizens who largely need to commute to places where they need to work – for long our and higher prices – using public transport, now find that difficult.

Further looking at the impact of COVID-19 and the lockdown on Nigeria’s education sector, Okoye said, most students are being left behind academically.

“About half of our students are in public schools and are not even able to pass some test ordinarily, primary 6 students not being able to pass Primary 2 exams, mostly due to higher curriculum, ” Okoye said.

He added: “Now we speak of online education, most of our students do not have required devices or even internet access. There is also room for private tutoring but most an average household in Nigeria cannot afford this.”

He said Nigeria needs to work out strategies to ensure that students are not left behind because of the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.

In his address, Remi Ayiede, a professor of Political Institutions, Governance, Public Policy and Administration at the University of Ibadan said there should be a sober reflection of how the country needs to develop its social system.

He said the failure to do so affects every member of society.

Ayiede said: “We need to operationalise the social protection list where everyone who has been listed as poor is captured. Some government have already started doing that which is commendable.”

He also called for a stronger approach to an even distribution of palliatives across the board and among citizens.