CIVIL society body the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (Huriwa) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to sack the chairman of the Covid-19 presidential taskforce Boss Mustapha for flagrantly breaching government social distancing guidelines.
Mr Mustapha, the secretary to the federal government, has been tasked with chairing the committee set up to fight the pandemic across Nigeria. However, last week, he led hundreds to attend the funeral of President Buhari’s chief of staff Mallam Abba Kyari who passed away after succumbing to the virus.
In a dangerous breach of government health guidelines, many of the mourners were not wearing protective clothing and they were in close proximity to each other, shunning the two metre social distancing laws. Nigerian law prohibits the gathering of more than 10 people in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja where Mallam Kyari was buried, as well as in Lagos and Ogun states.
Incensed by this flagrant breach of the law by those meant to be upholding it, Huriwa President Buhari sack Mr Mustapha and all other members of the task force who violated the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) protocol last week. It added that such persons should also subject themselves to the prosecutorial powers of the mobile courts in Abuja handling cases of violations of the lockdown order by the federal government.
Huriwa national coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, said the apologies tendered by Mr Mustapha, was insufficient to atone for the gross misjudgement and the flagrant breach of the law. He added that allowing the chairman to continue to preside over the strategic task force on Covid-19 will pass the impression to millions of people around the world that Nigeria is a country of two laws – one for the commoners and one for the ruling elite.
According to Mr Onwubiko, it was disgraceful and an unmitigated insult on our collective national psyche for Mr Mustapha to boldly flout the established protocols made by the NCDC and put the lives of the rest of the public in Abuja at grave risk. He added that this is especially as the virus has no known cure.
Mr Onwubiko said: “It is unimaginable that in this same Abuja, the seat of political power of Nigeria and the custodian of the central law-making organ for the entire nation that the secretary to the government of the federation who should show good example is the person that led some other members of the presidential task force on Covid-19 to abuse and disobey clearly established laws and regulations meant to keep Nigeria safe. However, he is being treated as a sacred cow whereas hundreds of poor residents of Abuja and Lagos such as Jenifer Akindele who committed same infractions of violating the social distancing rules were prosecuted and convicted.
“We must never create the impression that some persons are bigger than the law. It is in that frame of mind that we believe that the right cause of action is for the secretary to the government of the federation and other members to honourable quit the presidential task force on Covid-19 and present themselves to the mobile court in Abuja to be prosecuted for the offences of violating the social distancing rules just like all other Nigerian citizens who have been so prosecuted.
“In other civilised climes such a person would even be sacked from his political position but we are not going as far as demanding that he be dismissed from the position of the secretary to the government of the federation because he is the only Christian holding strategic national positions under a highly sectional administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. But we are recommending his sack from the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19.”