As some parts of the world including Nigeria slowly transit to a post lockdown reality, the Lagos government has been called upon to adopt some long-term measures to enable the state return to normal economic and public activities.
According to a group of civil society organisations (CSOs), the government should start by prioritising public health consideration in all aspects of public life and partnering with relevant international organisations such as World Health Organisation (WHO) towards achieving this.
The Lagos State Government was also asked to empanel researchers and policy experts to identify feasible approaches from cities around the world who successfully returned from widespread medical crises, such as Ebola and HIV crises.
Appropriate regulations and space standards to govern implementation of social distancing and other public health measures in shops/markets, schools and other public places should be outlined and communicated, said the CSOs, adding that local governments should take the lead in community mobilisation for public health consciousness by engaging community leaders, traditional and religious institutions, local market and traders’ associations to develop their local protocols for social distancing and activation of public health practices.
Besides boosting opportunities for technology-enabled commerce to reduce traffic congestion and the need for human congestion in markets, the authorities were also charged to determine a strategy for resumption of formal businesses on an incremental, time-spaced manner.
“Market and traders’ associations should be assisted in introducing digital (telephone or website) order and delivery systems. Rotational market and bank opening days may be counterproductive as it will result in surges,” declared the activists, adding that “working from home” should also be encouraged as a workable business model, including government office.
The Lagos government was also told to partner with local transport unions to design, develop and implement safe and sustainable public transport options.
The CSOs include Federation of Informal Workers of Nigeria (FIWON); Nigerian Slum / Informal Settlement Federation (Federation); Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development, University of Lagos; Sankofa Policy Lab; Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE Nigeria); Lagos Urban Development Initiative; Rethink Cities Initiative, POLYBRIQ; and Urbanovate Enterprise.
While commending the government for her continuous efforts in containing the spread of COVID-19 across the state, they however lamented that:
- There are insufficient skilled personnel to operationalise the decentralised testing in many localities.
- There are efficiency and coordination gaps in the food distribution with many of the targeted beneficiaries still unable to access supply.
- There are cases of social injustices including violent lockdown enforcement and forced evictions.
- Local governments have been weakened over the past decades; the resulting lack of trust from citizens is now a serious impediment for a quick and coordinated response to contain the disease.