Would you say you are satisfied with the measures put in place by the Federal Government in handling the spread of COVID-19?
I can say that I am satisfied, but definitely there is need for more effort. The government is doing its best. The reasons why I said I am satisfied is because, when this sort of incidence occurs, not even nationally but globally, I am sure that no government will take it easy. All governments will try to see that they do their best to ensure the safety of their nation. I follow the task force at the state, and at the national level, I have seen their effort. If you observe how they came in here to Kano after the rumour of another death that was not even Covid -19 related – they rushed to Kano to see what is happening. Definitely they are trying, but I am sure with views from people they will do even much better.
With the growing number of cases every day, how best do you think the Federal Government can check the pandemic spread?
The lockdown is the answer. Even the countries who started the lockdown at the right time are now thinking that they didn’t start it at the right time after observing how the situation is going. Each and every country has that feeling after observing the situation. I am sure that lockdown is the answer. If our people can follow the instructions of the government and adhere to rules and regulations set, I am sure the virus will not spread this much. As you can see, it started in a small number. If the whole states were on a lockdown, nobody will go from one state to another, and the government will find it easy to tackle the first states where the virus was recorded. People need to be more compliant to government rules and regulations. Nobody will say that people are not aware of the Covid -19 because that is the talk of the town. Definitely lockdown is the best.
After the lockdown, then Social distancing. This is another aspect that the government needs to put more effort in. The Government can lockdown and ask the police to maintain the lockdown but the government cannot enforce social distancing. That is subject to the will of individuals.
Thirdly, the usage of masks. Government can assist in supplying citizens with masks, and the attention of the government needs to be drawn to this. In Kano, some areas are opened for 8 hours, and if people have enough masks, maybe that will also assist because when people go out they rush for food and there will be contacts in the process. I belong to an organization, North development forum, and we supply masks, sanitizers, through traditional rulers to people in the local government. NGOs and citizens should also try to assist the state with provision of masks.
As a gender advocate and a policy advocate how have you been able to mobilise resources in combating COVID-19?
We made contributions in my own area and use it to assist in the educational system, health and agric. In Kano, we have a free and compulsory education, and there are so many policies the government wants to implement on the educational system, most especially concerning the girl child and almajiris. In our own organization, we deal with 13 local governments because it is a North development forum. I belong to the North so it sees to the development of the North, and all the members come from these 13 local government. We act towards the educational sector by providing uniforms, teaching materials, and now what we are thinking of is the issues of almajiris regarding how we can supplement the effort from the government towards that. Within ourselves, we get our funds from those well to do from the North and monthly contributions. What we have done during this pandemic is funded by money from the organization’s account.
In your opinion, what should more women be doing differently to sit at the top and make decisions to drive change in response to COVID-19?
Women have an important role to play. Firstly, in the home, men have been asked to be at home and now women have additional responsibilities. Women also have to be patient and come together to take the lead of seeing that children remain in the house. It is the responsibility of women to ensure they impose the lockdown in their homes, and ensure the washing of hand is made possible by improvising.
We have different organizations and forum of women throughout the nation. They should come out to assist, and complement the effort of the government. Let us see them in media giving their own contribution. Even if it is to provide masks or empower people to make masks, and distribute them within their areas. In the task force, within most of the states you’ll not see many women there, but there are some advices that women can provide in that sort of setting. Wherever a woman is, she is thinking about her children, so if people aren’t taking those into account, she will think about them put them into consideration. There are women within the task force but the positions they hold are not enough.
Women need to make effort to be included, we have the minister of Women Affairs and through that, maybe the idea can be sold to the government. In Kano, we have about 11 female permanent secretaries, and the head of service was appointed form the 11 permanent secretaries. Most of the permanent secretaries in Kano state participate in a lot of top meetings. If the government has interest to include women in so many things, you’ll see them performing. The governor of Kano has said several times that he has seen so many changes in what he has done, and that is why he appointed the head of service out of these female permanent secretaries. We are always in the office, and we make sure we maintain social distancing and adhere to safety rules and regulations.
In Kano, through ministry of education, we advised the government to see to the safety of the almajiris by ensuring they are with their families. This is an advice given by most of us because we are mothers, we see these children roaming around for food and they are not with their parents. So if we show the government we have something to offer, definitely we will contribute.
What proactive measures is your office putting in place to fight the spread of COVID-19?
Right from the beginning and because we deal with education, the closure of schools is part of our effort. We ensured that schools were closed successfully. Another of our effort is that, after observing that some private schools didn’t close, we set up a task force within the ministry headed by myself. We divided ourselves into three, and went round the 8 local governments within the metropolitan. We announced in the radio that open schools should be reported. Reports of open schools we received were distributed among the three groups and we went round to close the schools. Later when we were called from local governments, we disseminated the act to the local government chairman to establish his own committees and see that all schools are closed.
Even before the lockdown, we used jingles to enlighten the ulamas to take children to their parents. It was after the jingle we started going from one school to another till the time of the lockdown. Throughout this lockdown we always meet to see how we can assist in the educational system. We have to see that the students are save.
Our ministry has partnered with UNICEF to ensure we assist by providing lessons for children. The ministry uses the media to teach primary 1-6 and those preparing for WAEC. We selected some of our teachers under the chairperson Kano state education resource department to air the lessons via our local media and television stations every morning and evening. We go round the media stations to provide our teachers with hand sanitizers and mask and give them a pass so that they can continue the lessons even during lockdown.
While the economic and social impacts on all citizens are severe, they are more so for women. Women also constitute a large percentage of the informal economy in Nigeria. How are you using your position to ensure that post COVID-19, do not have adverse effect on women more?
Everyone knows that if a pandemic occurs, then there must be a post pandemic economic implication. So everyone has to change their style, even in the way we utilize what we have at hand or in the house. Women are managers of what is available in the house and as a woman, the first step is that you have to change your style and manage what you have so that it sustains the family.
The government has to come in. The reason why a lot of time, we put the burden on government is because of the economic situation of the people. The government cannot bear it 100%. We can put it on the government to expand the assistance given to women or to make a special arrangement for assisting women that have weak economic status such as market women. Philanthropists and well to do individuals can assist too, even market organizations can distribute money to market women as a revolving fund where they can use it and pay back after six months. The government can do this as well as a revolving fund to ease the problem in the economy at the lowest level.
We have to help ourselves even within the house, we have to teach our children how to manage life after the pandemic. As we are enlightening people about the pandemic, we should make ourselves aware of life after the pandemic, how we are going to treat our economy, manage and see that we move forward.