COVID-19: AbdulRazaq mulls labour, civil society border volunteers

Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq of Kwara state has suggested setting up of a volunteer team drawn from the labour unions and the civil society to complement efforts of the security agencies to stop the influx of people into the state.

“It has been established that some people sneak into the state between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. This poses a grave danger to us when you consider the fact that virtually all our COVID-19 cases were imported. We would like to have volunteers from Labour and the civil society who, working with the security agencies, would man our borders between those hours,” Abdulrazaq said during a virtual meeting with leaders of the CSOs late Monday.

The CSOs were represented by Mallam Lawal Olohungbebe of the Centre for Community Development (KWASU); Dr Lateef Alagbonsi of the Elite Network for Sustainable Development (ENETSUD); Hajia Bilqees Oladimeji of the COVID-19 National CSO Emergency Intervention Group (CEIG); Idris Buko Musa of the Coalition of Kwara North Groups (CKNG); Abdulrahman Ayuba of the Centre for Community Empowerment and Poverty Eradication (CCEPE); Anthonia Oshiniwe of the Theios Caregivers Initiative; AbdulRasheed Sa’adudeen of the Volunteers of Ilorin Community and the Emirate (VOICE); and Saliu Saliu of the Haashim Initiative for Community Advancement (HICA).

The meeting was a follow up to the first engagement AbdulRazaq had with some civil society leaders in April during which he commended them for their “credible roles” in the distribution of the government’s palliatives after he invited them to join the initiative.

He said the invitation had been premised on the need to ensure that the palliatives facilitated with public funds get to every Kwaran, irrespective of their affiliations — a first-of-its-kind step the Governor said may have offended political interests.

“We are here to serve the people. We have nothing to hide and that is why we called you to observe and own the process. We may have our doubts and we may disagree on modalities of how to get things done for our people but we must never at any time turn our back against one another,” he told the CSO leaders.

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AbdulRazaq said he had called the Monday meeting to formally receive a position paper of the CSO on how to further develop the state as well as brief them on the status of Kwara in fighting the deadly virus, adding: “We all need to do more to contain the spread of the virus and prevent community transmission.”

He said the government would offer incentives and security cover to volunteers who would form a border surveillance team manning the various entry posts of the state from its western and northern flanks — especially Eiyenkorin, Oko Olowo and Jebba where the influx of people has been reported in the past few days.

AbdulRazaq reiterated his call on Kwara communities and individuals to take responsibility as the country struggles to flatten the curve of transmission of the virus amid rising infection rate.

He said Kwara would soon have a testing centre as the NCDC team is expected in the state in the coming days to discuss the issue, adding that there was no use buying rapid test kits whose results would not be recognised.

The civil society leaders welcomed the challenge amid calls on the administration to strengthen enforcement of various regulations put in place to tackle the pandemic.

They observed that some of the issues raised in their position paper recently sent to the Governor have been addressed such as a need to relax lockdown internally, ensure regular payment of the civil servants’ salary, and compulsory quarantine of anyone who sneaked into the state.

They, however, urged the government to look into other areas of concern such as a review of the social investment programme because of the paucity of funds, getting accurate data for proper planning, independent COVID-19 fundraising committee, credit facilities for farmers, irrigation, open governance and increased accountability and transparency, and development of a master plan for the state, among others.

Olohungbebe, who summarised the position of the CSOs, commended the Governor for taking engagement with the civil society so serious in a way never seen before.

“We thank you for this engagement. The civil society should not be (seen as) rival to the government. We should be partners. We just want the best for our state. There is no doubting your good intentions for our state but we also urge you to consider the passage of the FOI Bill. Other issues we want the government to look at are farmers’ market, off-taker policy, and agriculture master plan,” he said.

 

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