By Deji Abdulwahab
Mr Salihu Lukman, Director-General, Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), has called on the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Covid-19 Campaign to improve its engagement strategy to enhance the citizens’ ability to contain the spread of the pandemic.
Lukman also urged the PTF headed by Secretary to Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, to broaden the scope of its membership.
Lukman said: “Maybe it is the perilous nature of our orientation that is playing out.
“Unfortunately, it will appear that low engagement strategy by the PTF on the Covid-19 campaign is also reducing citizens’ ability to own the fight against the spread in the country.
“This is not in anyway passing any judgment on the leadership of the PTF in the fight against Covid-19, but to highlight areas requiring urgent attention to succeed in the fight against the spread of Covid-19.
“What are these recommendations? First, the PTF needs to broaden the scope of its membership at two levels.”
According to him, it needs to approach the question of expansion based on the strategy of using communication to mobilise the participation of everyone, both governmental and non-governmental.
“Communication should not be about simply passing information to citizens about what government is doing.
“It should be more about accommodating the views and interests of Nigerians through their representatives.
“This can come about through the deployment of some approaches that allow identified representatives to interact with members of the PTF and through such interactions influence decisions.
“It is good to have all senior Federal Government functionaries driving the process and consulting other arms of governments – National Assembly and Governors,” he said.
Lukman said this could, however, be strengthened by going beyond consultations.
“The reality is that consultation alone, will hardly produce the needed ownership and synergy of initiatives, even within the governmental structures.
“In fact, one can argue that some of the critical observations of the leadership of the National Assembly from the session with the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and more recently with the PTF on Thursday, April 9, 2020 is a confirmation of the limitations of consultations.
“What is required is that, depending on the terms of reference of the PTF as given by the President, the PTF should consider co-opting members of the National Assembly to join the committee.
“Similarly, is the issue of coordinating with states. The PTF Chairman, Mr Boss Mustapha, has reported at least in two of its daily media briefing sessions that they have had teleconferencing with the Governors,” he said.
Lukman said that the reality of ensuring successful containment of the spread of Covid-19 would be hinged on the effectiveness of states to enforce measures around social distancing, including lockdown.
“Although, it is true that the Federal Government exercises jurisdiction over agencies of law enforcement, the truth is that our context law enforcement alone will not guarantee success.
“Some of the factors that account for this include the fact that our law enforcement agencies are already overstretched with all the problems of insecurity in the country.
“In addition, enforcement shouldn’t be simply about compelling citizens but more about securing citizens’ consent to abide by government instructions.
“If state governments are to play their roles, there will be need to configure the PTF in such a way that it is able to accommodate the participation of state governments.
“This could lead to the issue of possibly organising the PTF into sub-teams deployed to each geo-political zone based on which Secretaries to State Governments and other nominees can be also coopted into the PTF,” he said. (NAN)