Disobedience to Covid-19 protocols – Thisday

It is in everyone’s interest for public officials to obey rules and regulations

Once again, the impunity with which senior public office holders and top politicians in the country flout simple regulations made for the general well-being of all citizens is worrying. In recent days, there have been reports that some public officials who returned to Nigeria from countries that have become epicentres of the Coronavirus pandemic are refusing to submit to the mandatory airport screening or self-isolation when they get home, as recommended. With that, they put several people at risk. This is clearly unacceptable. Nobody is or should be made to believe that he is above the law.

However, we are not surprised. In Nigeria today, special traffic rules apply for the rich and powerful. They run red lights, drive one-way, and indeed erect buildings without the appropriate approvals and supervision. They can have people that they disagree with (or don’t like) arrested and detained. On the whole, the bigger a personality in Nigeria, the more likely they disobey the law. And so, this contrary behaviour is embraced, observed, and replicated in greater or lesser degree at all levels of our society. As we say here “everyone is a big man in his own house”. The house inevitably becomes too small and, people then seek high office, doing anything to get there. Once there, their behaviour offers nothing in leadership. Specifically implicated for flouting the screening regulation at the airports for in-coming passengers are members of the National Assembly and their families.

It is a shame that those who are paid to make laws for the good of the country are the same people who would not submit to simple protocols. Several pertinent questions are begging for answers. Why do Nigerians take pleasure in flouting even the simplest of rules, designed to keep the people safe and secure? Why are those charged with enforcing compliance unable to perform? Why would they rather turn a blind eye to flagrant disobedience of the law? Why have many jettisoned the virtues of honesty and service?

A former House of Representatives’ Speaker once refused to board a British Airways (BA) flight because he was asked by staff of the airlines to present his hand luggage and his person to security screening. Claiming that British Government VIPS would not have to be subjected to such routine screening, the speaker unfortunately did not deem it fit to set an example to others. Interestingly, the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCCA) while commenting on the incident said that only the President, the Vice-President and their wives are exempted from security checks. But the recklessness continues.

At a time of a critical health emergency, we cannot allow a situation where a few people would continue to endanger the rest of us. The behaviour of those who refuse to conform to the protocols established by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to deal with the CODIV-19 pandemic is a metaphor for everything wrong with us as a nation. They should step back from this disastrous path. We urge the security agencies to be alive to their responsibility. Nobody is bigger than the country.

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