Personnel of the Nigeria Police making an arrest.
In this article, we critique Nigeria’s handling of COVID-19, suggest possible improvements, and taking instruction from the response options being pursued by Nigeria as a key developing country, we proffer our opinion as to where we think the whole ball game is headed.
Italy currently has the largest mortality figure attributed to COVID-19. According to a study by the Italian government, 99% of the mortality is in people already struggling with other medical conditions; and at least 50% of them have been diagnosed with three or more diseases. COVID-19 death, then, was merely the proverbial last straw. In Nigeria, the first death attributable to this coronavirus was reported on 23rd March. However the 67 year old gentleman involved had diabetes and was undergoing chemotherapy for multiple myeloma. Yet officially, his death is attributed to neither of these two underlying chronic diseases, but coronavirus! If the ultimate goal is to save lives at minimum socio-economic costs, it is necessary we examine how our efforts should be weighted and distributed in fighting these two complementary agents of death: COVID-19 on one hand, and underlying chronic medical conditions on the other. Without COVID-19, the patient can still go ahead managing his health condition for a couple more years perhaps; and without the health condition, COVID-19 is virtually innocuous. This subject is extensively critically reviewed on the Greenmedinfo blog.
Our view in this piece is that such priority-setting decisions require carefully conducted risk assessment, based on local values and sensibilities, rather than policies uncritically imported from elsewhere. What is optimal in one location and circumstances may not necessarily be the best at another - even while the scientific contents remain unassailable. In our humble opinion, current efforts to fight the novel coronavirus in Nigeria have been directed mainly at pleasing global authorities and getting their commendation rather than what is actually needed to produce desired local results. And since no one can lightly impugn the intelligence of the folks handling our response, the choices they make is more indicative of an overall philosophical outlook and agenda (global in nature), rather than incompetence or naivety.
In a piece addressed to “COVID-19 deniers”, Arefa Cassoobhoy established the two basic reasons why COVID-19 is deserving of the notoriety it has acquired while further arguing that no countering measure should be adjudged extreme. The main strength of COVID-19 is its being contagious in asymptomatic people who may not even know they are harbouring the virus. They could therefore transmit it unconsciously, ad infinitum, seriously endangering other vulnerable people (both loved ones and strangers) while they themselves remain healthy. This situation places a heavy moral burden on the vast majority (who won’t be affected by the virus), such that what might have been a chivalrous “I don’t fear the disease, I can risk my life” becomes an ignoble “I am safe, I don’t care for others!” This invariably provides implicit justification for the lockdowns, and their enforcements even via obnoxious methods.
Secondly, neither vaccine nor proven routine treatment is available at the present time; and being novel, we don’t have any pre-existing immunity to it, as we do to the older coronaviruses. The implication of this is that every symptomatic case (and this could be anywhere between 2%–3% among infected persons aged £19 years, to ≥31% among infected adults aged ≥85 years) could require intensive and specialized medical attention. Should these present at hospitals in too quick succession, both medical personnel and resources could become overwhelmed, especially in societies where every single life matters and qualifies to receive the best medical attention available. Thus the basic strategy for combatting the virus involves slowing down the rate of new hospitalizations at all costs, while stepping up efforts to find the cheap routine treatments or vaccine. This goal is referred to as “flattening the curve.”
Management of environment-based health hazards is all about risk management and sustainable development. Risk management involves balancing the costs and benefits, while sustainable development ensures that the three major dimensions of Environment, Economy, and Society are holistically taken into consideration even as we juggle the balls. This delicate operation can only be meaningfully implemented by folks familiar with the local terrain and values. A State House Press Release signed by Garba Shehu on 19th March provided a brief report on steps being taken by President Buhari’s administration to “mitigate the effects” of COVID-19 on the Nigerian people. In the short statement, President Buhari premised his assurance on the appropriateness of measures he was announcing primarily on the “commendation” already received from the World Health Organisation (WHO). He further added that “what this country is doing has been recommended as a template” - presumably to other countries. Unfortunately, under some conditions, such as a global pandemic, getting the praise of “global authorities” is not necessarily a virtue. It is an open secret that these Institutions are not (and really, could not) be as independent as they themselves probably would like to be. They routinely come under tremendous pressure and are forced to push values dictated to them by other clandestine but extremely powerful interests. We have seen this over the decades, from the operations of the various agencies of the UN and the Bretton Wood institutions whose raison d’etre, anyway, is to maintain global peace - even if it will come at the expense of some “unfortunate” few. It is remarkable that America’s measures to counter COVID-19 announced on March 11, were applauded neither by the WHO nor by America’s traditional allies in Europe. As a wise man once said, “self first is not selfishness!”
An especially apt and ongoing example of how risk assessments carried out by an Agency such as the WHO can be seriously flawed and dangerous to an uncritical society is the continued use of mercury-laden vaccines for our children in Nigeria. According to the reasoning of the eggheads at the WHO, the projected attending increased annual budget of the Agency by up to $333 million and other issues bothering on logistics, tip the scale in favour of the continued use of thimerosal (mercury) containing vaccines (TCVs) in Nigeria rather than shifting to the alternative products used in the developed nations, since TCVs were proscribed there, decades ago. Thus, based on the tacit counsel of the WHO to a supposedly resource-challenged nation, we have continued to infuse the brains of our own children with deadly mercury, jeopardizing their future mental and emotional wellbeing. At the same time, we give lie to the basic premise underlying this “scientific risk assessment” as the country continues to squander enormous resources via crap corruption or insane battle for meaningless ethnic or even religious superiority. There are many other critical examples of us naively swallowing camels prescribed by global bodies while straining out the gnats they fastidiously recommend to us. But none could be as serious as this present issue of our response to COVID-19.
Are the lockdowns, school closures, severe restrictions on the economic, social, and even religious spheres, justified in Nigeria (even without any suspension of the Constitution, declaration of state of Emergency, or even just a courteous presidential address)? Perhaps yes, strange times demand strange measures. However what is clearly suspect are the dimensions and details of implementation which are totally insensitive to local values; and which most likely would render the entire exercise not only meaningless but futile. As we write this, the report came in that the weekly statutory meetings of the Federal Executive Council, meant to review and steer the affairs of the nation, are being suspended indefinitely, because of COVID-19. This implies that the country is then to be run as in a state of emergency with Mr Boss Mustapha (head of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19) effectively in control – possibly for the next six months!
In the management of a pandemic, time is the critical element. The two management options available are first, containment - seeking to limit the spread of infection via lockdowns and social restrictions. The other option is mitigation, when the bulk of the efforts are directed at providing treatment while awaiting the attainment of herd immunity in society. Obviously both should go on pari passu, but the crucial point is on the relative weights allotted to each effort. As clearly spelt out by the WHO itself when advising against border closures on account of COVID-19, the containment option ceased to be viable around February 20, from which time it had become more profitable to direct the bulk of efforts to combat the virus at mitigation. Of course, several individual nations, in exercise of their sovereign rights, chose to ignore that particular counsel. Even right now, more nations are still deciding to close their borders as containment efforts.
Our beef with the current measures adopted by Nigeria to fight COVID-19 is mostly in the details and the spirit behind them.
First, the measures generally lack specificity and convey the impression that not much preceding homework had been done. For instance, most of the lockdowns announced have been “till further notice” without some indications when they might be reviewed. In most countries clear timelines are courteously announced to the citizens – with reasonable time to quickly adjust. For instance South Africa announced days ahead, that a 21 day national lockdown would be commencing on Thursday 26th March. Also in a similar vein, in prescribing limits for the number of people that could publicly gather, the specifics in the Nigerian measures have been hazy as well as arbitrary. For instance in Osun State, Christians went to bed on the night of Saturday 21st March with the instructions that they could meet for worship and prayers in groups not exceeding 50; but overnight there was another directive that no meeting at all would be permitted. A number of Church meetings were subsequently physically disrupted and the buildings locked up on Sunday, based on just a few hours of prior poorly-disseminated notification! Meanwhile the Presidential Task Force as at March 23 still allows gathering of up to 50 people.
The real problem with these non-specificities is that no one is really sure what informed the measures being announced. For instance what is the basis for pronouncing a flat maximum attendance figure for a cathedral with regular seating capacity of 10,000 and another Church auditorium that could only sit 100? With such opacity, citizens are not sure the orders are actually meant to achieve any concrete results or to merely create required news items for the global press. Or perhaps, as we are suggesting here, they are actually meant to please some global elites and further their hidden agenda.
Still on the apparent non goal-oriented nature of the lockdowns, it is also difficult to understand the basis for determining which facilities and sectors qualified for “lockdowns” and which do not. While Churches and Mosques were prominently cited, markets which in Nigeria tend to have higher human densities were excluded. Some cosmetic attempts were made to regulate commercial transportation systems. But even without the customary “overloading” of passengers, the proximity between passengers in a commercial car or bus is far less than what could be obtained in a typical Church meeting. On the same confusing note, the Nigeria Railway Corporation reversed itself (probably on orders from above) and announced it will now continue its services even amidst all the stay-at-home orders. Imagine the bewildering contradiction: folks who just arrived together in a crowded public transportation are not allowed to subsequently sit together, pray and study the Bible even in a more spacious location! It is difficult for the public to cooperate with measures that clearly are not meant to achieve anything tangible.
Even then, the restrictions announced in Nigeria are still less baffling than the ones being announced elsewhere. In Ghana, President Nana Akufo-Addo with all candour and gravity announced the proscription of any gatherings in Churches and Mosques for four weeks; but in the same speech, could only advise patrons at “shopping malls, restaurants, Night Clubs, hotels and drinking spots” to kindly ensure they practice social distancing! Does this give a hint about where all this is coming from, and where it might be headed in the not too distant future?
Beyond these technical details however is the question of morality in compelling people to stay at home indefinitely when no provision had been put in place to meet their basic needs of food, water, and probably also required prescribed drugs. In the developed countries where lockdowns were being pronounced, well-established online supply chains exist. Sad to note that in Nigeria, a good fraction of our people actually need to go and slug it out virtually every day before they can earn the money needed to bring food to the family table. Compare this with the reports from the UK, Italy, among others, that government will support private employers in paying salaries for workers who have to remain at home in the lockdown. Self-employed folks also qualify for a one-time grant. Various other measures of economic bailouts are being announced by several nations to cushion the financial stress on citizens who are being asked to stay at home. Of course, all these have economic implications for the state, as we shall be mentioning later!
Associated with the non-specificity of details in the lockdowns being pronounced in Nigeria, is the absence of specific measurable indicators to judge success or failure of the measures. In fact it was not only till 24th March that considerable number of diagnostic test kits (donated by Jack Ma and Ali Baba) reportedly arrived in Nigeria, buttressing the stories circulating on social media that many people who observed relevant symptoms in themselves and requested for testing were being rebuffed by the responsible authorities. As the WHO had earlier affirmed, lockdowns without measurable targets are meaningless and cannot be expected to produce any tangible result on the long run. According to Mike Ryann, WHO Chief Emergency expert: “The danger right now with the lockdowns is that, if we don’t put in place the strong public health measures now, when those movement restrictions and lockdowns are lifted, the danger is the disease will jump back up.”
In our opinion, “lockdowns” would have been more meaningful, understandable, and implementable if based on movement restrictions within specific geographical entities. Thus, people might be restricted to their cities, wards, boarding schools, and so on; but allowed to interact freely within that sector in other to provide other extremely important social supports as needed. Several studies have pointed out the immense health and mental hazards that would certainly follow a blanket mass self-isolation policy in society. The limited resources available for testing and identifying infected people could then be more profitably deployed to checking those who wish to exit or enter those set boundaries.
Furthermore, and probably most importantly, the vulnerable population within each lockdown sector should be scrupulously identified and put on strict but supported self-quarantine. This would be a reasonable easy-to-communicate measure, which the populace would then creatively seek to implement within local contexts. For instance, strict isolation of the elderly has now become the cornerstone of Israeli’s strategy against COVID-19 after the initial efforts at mass containment. In the words of Israeli Defence Minister, Naftali Bennet, “The most important thing, more than general social distancing, more than testing testing testing, is to separate old people from younger people.” In Britain, the vulnerable people recommended for self-quarantine has been identified as “people over 60 years of age,” together with younger people with serious health problems (such as asthma, HIV), as well as pregnant women. According to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, "The (National Health Service) will be contacting these people (1.5 million of them) in the coming days urging them to stay at home for a period of at least 12 weeks."
In the meantime as counselled by WHO’s Mike Ryann, the period of the “lockdowns” should be used to strengthen our healthcare systems all over the nation with facilities for cheap and fast diagnosis of COVID-19 provided across board. It could also be a great time to help the citizenry cultivate sound hygienic practices such as handwashing, and perhaps that excellent age-long traditional practice whereby the right hand is dedicated for use for interactions with people, and the left hand reserved for handling bio-hazardous objects and for interactions with non-humans. Imbibing these would be of considerable value in curtailing COVID-19 now and promoting sound health thereafter.
In concluding the technical critique segment of this article, we hasten to emphasize again the importance of exercising caution and holistic discernment as we attempt to draw lessons from situations in other times and climes. For example, many have simplistically attempted to justify apparently half-baked measures being proposed today by citing their presumed effectiveness during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-19. However analysts have warned that such comparisons cannot be glibly made, considering the vast differences in clinical profile, severity, biological signs and the level of knowledge between the two pandemics. Dwelling on the issue of level of knowledge, French historian Rassmussen pointed out that: “At the time of the Spanish flu, people didn’t know the influenza pathogen, and without this knowledge, it wasn’t possible for them to create a vaccine. Scientists did not isolate the particular virus strain that causes influenza in humans until 1933…..we decrypted the RNA of the coronavirus within a few days...” One has to be very careful to avoid using comparisons that create more fear than illumination.” he warned. https://www.france24.com/en/20200320-how-does-the-coronavirus-compare-to-the-spanish-flu
Similarly, in copying measures successfully being deployed in countries like Israel and the US in their response to COVID-19, we must learn to go the whole hog and begin to value human life in this country, in general terms, and not only when we are under the scrutiny of international radar – as in a global pandemic. For instance we may ask if it is really appropriate to use the same parameters to assess risks to COVID-19 in Nigeria as is done in Israel, when we currently have over two million Nigerians living in squalid pitiable conditions in IDP camps, years after being unlawfully displaced from their homes. Who is able to convince these people that the government of Nigeria really cares about them! On the other hand we see from time to time, how sacrosanct the Israeli government considers the life of each of her citizens. In fact, on one occasion, it swapped over 1,000 enemy prisoners in exchange for one soldier, Gilad Shalit! One wonders what could have been the condition today, of that young courageous lady, Leah Sharibu, were she to be an Israeli or American citizen. Risk assessments have to be holistic and comprehensive, not half-measured and haphazard. All the current razzmatazz of a response to COVID-19 in Nigeria gives the sinking impression that we are again merely being pushed in certain directions by foreign (specifically globalists), interests.
Why, for instance, do we have to wait endlessly for WHO endorsement before deciding that the well-reported treatment regime of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, could be incorporated under appropriate medical supervision for the treatment of COVID-19 in Nigeria, as some other countries (China, France, US) have reasonably decided – in the face of the enormous socio-economic deprivations already being imposed? According to UN chief, Antonio Guterres: “We are in an unprecedented situation and the normal rules no longer apply.”
Finally, we hasten to warn that the ongoing health issue is only preparing the way for even more gruesome disruptions in the social and economy sectors! While we envisage that the health-related issues will be resolved as mankind generally achieves herd immunity towards COVID-19, possibly in a couple of months from now; we expect the calamitous impact on the global economy to become apparent soon thereafter. As averred by UN chief Antonio Guterres, a global economic recession, “perhaps of record dimensions”, is a near certainty. Coming from the world’s number 1 diplomat, that’s a very heavy statement indeed! And yet, we believe, even that economic fall-out would be a childplay compared with the monumental fall-outs on the social dimension that would conclude the whole process.
One doesn’t need to be a prophet or professor to discern these forthcoming scenarios. The simple open truth is that the major chess game that has been ongoing between globalists and nationalists for a couple of centuries is now heading towards a sure closure. When ordinarily brilliant people begin to advocate silly unsupportable positions, it is only indicative of some ulterior agenda at work! Noting how global health authorities are suppressing information about upcoming efficient treatments for COVID-19, Senta Depuydt penned a very insightful article on the Children’s Health Defense blog, with the self-explanatory title: Does the Coronavirus Pandemic serve a Global Agenda? The article beautifully summarized the position to which we (ChurchArise!) have been sensitizing the Church in Nigeria for over two decades. For example an article in this 2001 newsletter described ongoing desperate moves to push the global government agenda forward, using the Hegelian principle of Thesis (Create a Problem) – Antithesis (Generate opposition to the problem – fear, panic, hysteria) – and finally Synthesis (Offer THE Solution to the problem). As we further highlighted severally, (for example see section II of our Book Behold I come Quickly Vol II), apart from Health, other possible instigators of “global problems” that would require “global solution” in the Hegelian scheme are Environment, Terrorism, and the Economy.
It is not likely that the globalists would allow to go “waste,” the opportunities currently being offered them by COVID-19. We believe the process described above is already irreversibly initiated. The genie is out of the bottle, the hounds have tasted blood. For instance, it is now demonstrated that Churches all over the world (including militant Nigeria), could be politely asked to close indefinitely; and that the general populace could be restrained from social gathering - even in a democratic dispensation. Clearly, the path to the scenario described in Rev 13:16-17 is opened, and it is only a matter of time (probably a short time) before the man arrives, who would keep “all, both great and small, rich and poor” under absolute economic and social lockdowns on his terms.
Our confidence as a Christian organization however, is that in all these things our God indeed holds all the aces and all things work together for the good of those who love Him. He is master at catching the wicked in their own conceits and He can well use even our mistakes and imperfections to His glory and our ultimate benefits. We therefore urge everyone reading this to cooperate, as far as they are able, with the policies being rolled out by the government in Nigeria, albeit with keen discernment. Instead of this being a time to worry endlessly, the ongoing lockdowns could provide physical rest for children of God across board. Instead of the closure of church buildings dousing our spiritual fire, this could be a time to step up personal Bible study and strengthen the koinona house fellowship, as in the early Church.
The ultimate loser will be the fellow who refuses to see the cascading evil and fails to safeguard himself appropriately by taking refuge under the sure shadow of the Almighty God (Proverbs 22:3, Psalms 91). There is room for everyone under His loving wings, and He has promised never to reject anyone who would approach Him with humility and sincerity. As it is written in the Scriptures, “Draw nigh unto God, and He will draw nigh unto you” (James 4:8). I will never, no never, reject one of them who comes to Me]. (John 6:37 Amplified).
Church Arise!Ile-Ife, 26th March, 2