I write on behalf of Lawyers Alert, a human rights nonprofit organization in Nigeria, regarding one Mrs. Susan Okpe, a female Nigerian who has been under your care in the isolation centre, Abuja for over 50 days as at the time of writing this letter.
We, as other Nigerians, are concerned about the continued “detention” of Mrs. Okpe in the isolation centre with very little information from the NCDC about the circumstances surrounding her case and the reason for her continuous detention. We refer to this as detention owing to her several videos stating so and her calls to Nigerians to intervene in her case.
Sir, kindly recall that on the 28th day of March, 2020, the Benue State Government, made public the case of one Mrs. Susan Okpe, as the index COVID-19 case in the State.Upon the announcement of the case, she was subsequently handed over to the National Centre for Disease Control and then transferred to the National Isolation centre in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. The Woman has been under isolation and supposed treatment.
Since then, it has been over 50 days and Mrs. Okpe is still under the care of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to the concern of Lawyers Alert and other Nigerians. Though we are not a health or medical based organization, our modest knowledge suggests that patients with COVID-19 either get better or worse under treatment after 2-3 weeks, subsequent upon which they are discharged, or in the worst case scenario they are pronounced dead. Mrs. Okpe’s case is getting protracted and a little overdue. She has been under treatment for over 50 days without any formal updates to her Family and relations. Worse still, videos have been circulating on social media handles in which she has expressed strong displeasure over her protracted detention and refusal of the concerned persons to avail her of results and, or even offer her modest treatment.
The management of Mrs. Susan Okpe’s case by the NCDC leaves much to be desired with grave consequences. This is not about Mrs. Susan Okpe alone but the messages the NCDC is sending out there to the members of the public on their treatment and management of COVID-19 in Nigeria. This situation has a lot of negative implications which includes but not limited to the following:
It will erode public confidence in the ability of the NCDC to effectively and efficiently manage COVID -19 thereby jeopardizing all the gains that have been made over the period.
It will instil fear, doubts and disbelief into other Nigerians who may feel reluctant to come out for tests even when they have a need to.
It will also feed and embolden the merchants of conspiracy theories and fake news regarding COVID-19 in Nigeria in the justification of their claims.
It will send a wrong signal to the International community about our approach to the pandemic in the country.
It also indicates a violation of the rights of the patient as she has expressed strong displeasure over her protracted stay at the isolation centre.
Based on the above therefore, Lawyers Alert hereby demands that the NCDC within 7 days of the publication of this letter must disclose the true state of Mrs. Susan Okpes’ condition and the reason for her protracted detention at the centre. We concede that the issues of her health are confidential however; this right is deemed waived as she has challenged the appropriate authorities through her videos on several social media platforms, on the authenticity of her detention with particular reference to her supposed COVID-19 status and the full disclosure of the findings of the NCDC.
You must also disclose the measures that NCDC are taking in the course of her treatment and the issues hindering her release from the Isolation centre. We equally concede that the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is by law empowered to isolate a confirmed case until they are fully satisfied with the recovery status. However, information to the patient, her relations and other stakeholders are also very fundamental as a matter of right. NCDC must put in place machinery to relocate Mrs. Susan Okpe to her Family as soon as possible.
Failure to respond to these issues, Lawyers Alert, an organization made up of principally Lawyers and other Professionals committed to the cause of Human Rights and access to Justice with vision to ensure Nigeria where Women and other vulnerable groups, are free from injustice and with mission to empower Women and other vulnerable groups on the knowledge of their rights and the means of enforcing same in a secure environment, will have no choice but to approach the Courts towards the enforcement of the Fundamental Rights of Mrs. Susan Okpe.
. Eboh is a Legal Officer at Lawyers Alert, Nigeria.