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Assessing Legislative Response to COVID-19 in Nigeria
The world is experiencing one of the worst pandemics in human history. The novel Coronavirus is wreaking havoc on all facets of human existence, and nation-states are mobilizing diverse resources to provide medical, political, economic, and legal solutions. In Nigeria, the government's response thus far has focused on containing the health crisis through the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), testing, and treatment. The government has also sought to mitigate the harsh economic and social consequences through the provision of economic stimulus and palliatives, as well as strategizing for accelerated economic recovery.
Over 1000 cases and 40 fatalities have been recorded across 32 states in Nigeria thus far. This presents a gloomy outlook for governance and development. Economic hardship represents a significant concern, as the country grapples with the effects of the pandemic with an economy that was very weak and vulnerable before the crisis. Prior to the detection of the index case, Nigeria's economy was heading into a recession triggered by the falling prices of crude oil in the global market. In March, oil prices plummeted to $25 per barrel3 due to a decline in global oil consumption caused by travel restrictions and lockdowns imposed by various governments as measures to contain the transmission of COVID-19. With this significant impact on the nation's revenue, the government is compelled to review the 2020 Appropriation, as the current crude prices are below the estimated benchmark of $57 per barrel at the time of the bill passage.
At the epicenter of this crisis are leadership and governance. Public leadership is required in times of crisis like the one imposed by the novel coronavirus; therefore, the government must be proactive in responding to the crisis else the consequences will assume magnitudes that cannot be managed. In other words, the lifeline of this crisis will be determined by the responsiveness, accountability, transparency and inclusiveness of the government's response. This is the moment for democratic institutions to demonstrate that they exist for the collective interest of the people.
Whilst the national response to the COVID-19 outbreak is led by the federal government through the Presidential Task Force (PTF), the National Assembly is constitutionally empowered to provide a legislative response to tackle the pandemic through the development and passage of legislation to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on citizens and the economy; perform oversight of the executive response to the pandemic; and provide support to constituents to be responsive to their needs during this unprecedented time.
This report by the Yiaga Africa Centre for Legislative Engagement (Yiaga Africa CLE) is a product of monitoring and indepth analysis of the National Assembly's response to the COVID-19 pandemic since the index case. The analysis is benchmarked by four core principles; Responsiveness, Accountability, Transparency, and Inclusiveness. The assessment relied on primary and secondary data sourced from interviews with legislators, legislative aides, and constituents; press statements from the National Assembly and media reports. This report covers the period of January 30, 2020, to April 15, 2020, and provides recommendations for an improved legislative response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.