SPACES FOR CHANGE | S4C embarked on high-level multi-stakeholder engagements with public and private institutions in June to share the findings and recommendations in its latest reports, NAVIGATING CIVIC SPACE DURING THE FIRST AND SECOND WAVES OF CORONA VIRUS IN NIGERIA. S4C’s research studies monitored and analysed the changing dynamics of the civic space during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing evidence of fault lines in Nigeria’s human rights landscape and research-based answers that can improve national emergency responses and bring about the desired changes in health, civic space and governance systems.
The S4C team met with the officials and management team of key ministries and agencies like the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals and several civil society organizations such including Global Rights, Policy & Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), WIDEF etc. S4C also presented research findings to a broad spectrum of civil society leaders and civic actors at a fireside event organized by Global Rights.
During these engagements, S4C team led by Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri presented the research findings, raising many topical issues for consideration ranging from the trends of emergency regulations hurriedly passed across Nigerian states and at the federal level which severely limited certain rights and freedoms. In addition, the methods used to enforce the flurry of disease containment and mitigation measures triggered a vast array of intended and unintended consequences, with far-reaching implications on the fundamental human rights of citizens and the civic space in general. This resulted in spikes in human rights abuses coupled with the misuse of emergency laws to stifle basic freedoms and crack down on the civic space.
The ensuing tension between the containment measures and specific sets of rights particularly the right to protest, associate and assemble freely, media and internet freedoms, women and minority rights, provoked public discontent across the country. S4C used the evidence-based data gathered during the two waves of the pandemic to scale up advocacy demanding that respect for human rights and democratic freedoms must lie at the core of national COVID-19 emergency responses. Through the briefers and presentations, stakeholders in the public and private sectors learned about the linkages between disease control measures and the rapidly-backsliding freedoms observed during the pandemic. In particular, the NCDC welcomed the opportunity to gain firsthand information regarding the multifaceted impacts of the emergency responses and policy measures on diverse groups across social classes in the country. The Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) specifically encouraged the incident-tracking of pandemic-linked violations on a database. Such data collation can provide useful evidence to improve sectoral accountability and also inform policy and legislative reforms in the health sector. On the other hand, it afforded an opportunity for S4C to gain invaluable insights into the design, mechanics and implementation of the newly-introduced health protocols.
Among other things, the reports recommended that state-sanctioned emergency measures shall be proportionate, non-discriminatory and devoid of intrusive and repressive approaches that undermine human rights and freedoms. S4C also advocated for the extensive review of the welfare and working conditions of frontline workers coupled with increased investments in critical healthcare infrastructure. Other recommendations include the suspension or absolute moratorium on housing evictions and aggressive sensitization campaign to members of the public to counter misinformation and enhance vaccination.