Articles and Keynotes

Affirmative Action and Inequalities: Theoretical Slip and the Nigerian Lapses by John Boye Ejobowah, PhD.

Presented at the National Conference on Education Equity, Nicon Luxury Hotels, Abuja, August 8, 2019. This paper is research in progress. It is an initial draft and the ideas in it will be fleshed out after the meeting.

Does affirmative action bridge inequalities? If yes, why has the policy persisted and become permanent in societies that have adopted it? This paper attempts to answer this question in the Nigerian context where the policy was driven by horizontal educational imbalance during the terminal phase of colonialism. Drawing on Ronald Dworkin’s resource egalitarian theory that defends affirmative action especially in university admissions, it argues that the policy has been successful in terms of bridging political inequalities; however, inequalities persist in the very educational sector that drove the policy in 1954. The paper locates the source of the imbalance in the apparent lack of attention to disparities at the levels of primary and secondary education. Using this empirical lapse, the paper highlights a shortcoming in the philosophical argument: namely, the failure to grapple with imbalances at the lower levels of education. The conclusion is that one could only begin to contemplate the disappearance of affirmative action if its main driving force is first addressed head-on…. Download the full keynote address via the link below


COVID-19 is the name given to the disease associated with Coronavirus that started in Wuhan, China towards the end of 2019. Coronaviruses are viruses that circulate among animals but some of them are known to infect human beings. The virus is spread from human to human via small respiratory droplets through sneezing, coughing or contact with infected person or surface. When a person comes in contact with the droplets and touches his or her nose, mouth or eyes, he or she will get infected. The virus can survive on different surfaces for several hours and probably to a few days. The incubation period i.e time of exposure to the virus and onset of symptoms is between one and fourteen days. The main symptoms are fever, cough, sore throat and difficulty in breathing (respiratory distress).

The way a country is able to respond to the Covid 19 pandemic depends on the strength of its governance system. Governance is the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority to manage the affairs of an entity like a country or a state. It is made up of the mechanisms, processes, relationships and institutions that are used to manage the affairs.

I am starting this Covid 19 and governance in Nigeria series during this period of lock down to examine the challenges of Covid 19 in Nigeria and its implications for governance. In particular, I will focus on governance failures and what needs to be done to strengthen our governance system. I hope that researchers, policy makers, civil society activists and the general public will find the series useful.


From the response of governments across the world so far and guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO), we can delineate three ways to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic:

Good Health System: Covid-19 has no cure and no vaccine to prevent it at the moment. The only way to treat is to manage the symptoms before self-resolution. In order to do this requires a good health system with qualified and motivated personnel, equipment and institutional capacity. It has been pointed out that the relatively low casualty figures from Germany can be attributed to a good health system.

Testing and Treatment: Response to the pandemic depends on how quickly you can detect the disease and manage those that have been infected. This requires the availability of test kits, personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators. It is important to note that individuals at the highest risk for severe disease and death include people aged over 60 years and those with underlying conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer.[i] In addition, Covid-19 is a new disease and key knowledge gaps remain including the source of infection, pathogenesis and virulence of the virus, transmissibility, risk factors for infection and disease progression, diagnostics, clinical management of severely and critically ill patients and the effectiveness of prevention and control measures.[ii]

Prevention and Control measures: This involves health education especially on hygiene, restriction of movement and social distancing. The hygiene requirement is to wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and clean hands with alcohol-based sanitizers. In addition, anyone who coughs, or sneezes should do it into the elbow or use tissue paper. The social distancing requirement is to stay at least one metre or more away from people. It has been documented that learning from the experience of China, three countries (Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong) were able to bring their outbreaks under control through prevention and control measures.[iii] It is instructive that these three countries have close links with mainland China. The first infections (index cases) were all imported from China on 21st January 2020 for Taiwan and 23rd January 2020 in Hong Kong and Singapore. All three governments implemented prevention and control measures including:
Travel restriction: to reduce arrival of new cases into the community.
Quarantine: to prevent transmission from known cases to the local population and Self-isolation, social distancing and hygiene: to suppress transmission in the community through contact.
With these measures, the three countries were able to interrupt the chain of disease transmission.

In Nigeria, the first case was on 27th February 2020. An analysis of the three ways to deal with the disease will give an indication of where the authorities should put emphasis. In terms of health system, Nigeria does not have a good and strong health system. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), a strong health system has a robust financial structure, well remunerated and trained workforce, sufficient and highly maintained facilities, logistics for medicine, vaccines and technologies and a reliable and updated health information system.[iv] But studies of the health system in Nigeria show poor state of health facilities, sub-optimal management of common diseases and high rates of medical tourism.[v] The end result is that the quality of health care services in Nigeria is poor.[vi] The Covid –19 pandemic should be an opportunity to strengthen the health care system in Nigeria. This will include among other things increased budgetary allocation to health; improvement of health care services; supply of quality medicines including improved local manufacture; radiological and diagnostic equipment and materials; strengthening of health institutions at primary, secondary and tertiary levels; and provision of human resources in the right mix with proper supervision. If all of these are done, it will lead to proper testing and treatment. Unfortunately, as at the end of March 2020, only seven testing laboratories and 25, 000 test kits were available to service a population of about 200 million people in Nigeria.

It is clear from the above that Nigeria does not have a good and strong health system and there is inadequate capacity for testing and treatment. There are insufficient testing kits, ventilators and personnel protective equipment (PPE). Therefore, emphasis need to be placed on prevention and control. For the entire response to be effective requires leadership which will be the focus of our next discourse.


The simplest definition of Leadership is the ability to lead others by influence. It is the capacity to influence, inspire, rally, direct, encourage, motivate, induce, move, mobilize, and activate others to pursue a common goal or purpose while maintaining commitment, momentum, confidence and courage.[i] There are different kinds of leadership required for different times. Scholars have pointed out that the period of crisis requires charismatic leadership with a combination of intelligence, purpose, grace under pressure and consideration for followers.[ii] Poor leadership can make a crisis situation worse especially if impending threats are ignored, wrong decisions made or impression created in the mind of citizens that the leaders do not care. Leadership during crisis aims to minimise impact, save lives, protect property and infrastructure and restore public trust on government. This requires initiative and imagination especially if the crisis is new like Covid-19.

  1. Early recognition of the crisis and the threat it poses.
  2. Facilitating a collective understanding of the nature, characteristics, consequences, potential scope and effects of an evolving threat.
  3. Making strategic decision in a timely manner after some form of due process.
  4. Orchestrating co-ordination among government agencies, private sector and citizens especially those affected by the crisis.
  5. Adopting a systems approach to the crisis looking at all its dimensions and connections.
  6. Provide authentic hope and confidence to the people.
  7. Provide mass communication in a timely manner. Ensure correct information at all times as one wrong information can jeopardise all the efforts.
  8. Render accountability. Explain what is being done and why. Provide cost of action and services rendered.
  9. Learn as you implement. Learn during the crisis about what is working and after the crisis on what has worked for future purposes.
  10. Enhance resilience. Prepare individuals and organisations for resilience and the ability to absorb shocks, recover quickly, adapt and respond to situation.

This framework can be applied to Covid-19 and other crises. Response to Covid-19 will be effective if the threat is recognised early and response put in place in terms of good health system, testing and treatment and prevention and control measures. If delay happens at the initial stage, the spread will go out of hand with disastrous consequences. If people do not understand the level of threat, they will respond negatively to prevention and control measures. If strategic decision of lock down is not taken on time, the disease will overwhelm the health system especially if the system is weak. If there is no co-ordination and engagement with citizens, government will roll out programmes with citizen opposition. If authentic hope and confidence is not given to people, some will not understand why they should make sacrifice that a lock down requires. If correct information is not provided in a way that it will get to all, rumour mongering and fake news will thrive. If account is not rendered periodically and transparently, support from citizens cannot be assured. In the Nigerian case, many citizens are already annoyed that corporate bodies, banks and wealthy individuals are donating money to government. If we do not learn quickly what works, we will not be able to replicate in other places. The isolation and treatment centre in Lagos has come out with great results. We must learn quickly why this is so and how it can be replicated in the other 35 states and FCT. Finally, we need to prepare individuals and organisations for resilience as we respond to the Covid-19 crisis and other crisis in the future.


The World Health Organisation (WHO) is the directing and co-ordinating authority on international health within the United Nations System.[i] WHO experts produce health guidelines and standards and help countries to address public health issues. WHO also supports and promotes health research and has a membership of 193 countries and two associates. On 30th January 2020, the WHO declared the 2019 Corona virus disease (COVID-19) outbreak a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). Since then, WHO has issued guidelines to support countries to respond to the pandemic. WHO guidelines have been organised around six strategic objectives to:

  1. Interrupt human-to-human transmission including reducing secondary infections among close contacts and health care workers, preventing transmission amplification events, and preventing further international spread. This can be achieved through a combination of public health measures, such as rapid identification, diagnosis and management of the cases, identification and follow up of the contacts, infection prevention and control in health care settings, implementation of health measures for travellers, awareness-raising in the population and risk communication,
  2. Identify, isolate and care for patients early, including providing optimized care for infected patients,
  3. Identify and reduce transmission from the animal source,
  4. Address crucial unknowns regarding clinical severity, extent of transmission and infection, treatment options, and accelerate the development of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines,
  5. Communicate critical risk and event information to all communities and counter misinformation, and
  6. Minimize social and economic impact through multisectoral partnerships.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has provided technical guidance on clinical preparedness, readiness and response to COVID-19. The idea is really that each country should assess its own risk and rapidly implement the necessary measures at the appropriate scale to reduce both COVID-19 transmission and economic, public and social impacts.[ii] The pathway of the disease can be divided into five phases:

i. No cases
ii. Sporadic cases
iii. Cluster of cases
iv. Community transmission
v. Country wide transmission.

The priorities should be different depending on the phase. When there are no cases, the focus should be on preparation including set up of COVID-19 designated hospitals. When there are sporadic cases, the focus should be on screening, care of suspected and confirmed patients, contact tracing and quarantine of contacts. When there are cluster of cases, the priority should be to scale up screening, improve care of suspected and confirmed patients, increase number of designated hospitals (including intensive care units, ICUs) and establishment of new structures to augment the health system. When it is at the community transmission and country wide transmission levels, it is time to ramp up all interventions and establish new hospitals and temporary structures, improving the referral system and introducing new cohorted community facilities and treatment at home. It must be noted that irrespective of the stage, it is necessary to have the right messaging for the public and ensuring health facility readiness, health staff readiness, referral system readiness and maintaining essential health services because COVID-19 has not suspended other diseases. It has been suggested that Nigeria is moving from stage 3 to stage 4 necessitating the need to ramp up all interventions.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued guidelines dealing with several areas including national co-ordination, monitoring and evaluation, strategic communication, public health and testing. WHO recommends that countries activate co-ordination mechanisms as early as possible and well before community transmission occurs. The co-ordination mechanism should involve a whole-of-government and society approach that will include key sectors such as health, transport, travel, trade, finance, security and other sectors. It also recommends a monitoring and evaluation system to assess the effectiveness of measures and document lessons learned to inform ongoing and future activities. Strategic communication is required to communicate to the public what is known, what is unknown and what is being done to address the pandemic. In addition, WHO has provided three key public health objectives at all stages of the preparedness and response to COVID-19 namely to prevent outbreaks, delay spread, slow and stop transmission; provide optimised care for all patients especially the seriously ill and minimise the impact of the pandemic on health systems, social services and economic activity. Finally, WHO has provided a laboratory testing strategy recommendation for COVID-19.[iii] The aim of the strategy is partly to enable countries to increase their level of preparedness, alert, and response to identify, manage and care for new cases of COVID-19, laboratory testing being an integral part of the strategy. It gives guidelines on good laboratory practices and guidance to policy makers depending on the stage of the disease in the country.

Meanwhile, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Nigeria on 27th February 2020 when an Italian citizen in Lagos tested positive for the virus. On 9th March 2020, the second case was reported in Ewekoro, Osun State from a Nigerian citizen who had contact with the index case. On 17th March 2020, the third case was confirmed in Lagos from a returnee from the United Kingdom. On 18th March 2020, Nigeria confirmed five new cases and since then, there has been new cases almost on a daily basis. As at 8th April, 2020, there were 276 confirmed cases, with six deaths and 44 recovered cases.

On 28th January 2020, the Federal Government of Nigeria assured Nigerians of its readiness to respond to the Covid-19 disease in Nigeria. On 31st January, 2020, the government set up the Coronavirus Preparedness Group to mitigate the impact of the virus if it eventually spreads to Nigeria. On 17th March, 2020, Nigeria postponed the national sports festival. On 18th March, the NYSC suspended ongoing orientation camp. On same day Nigeria placed a travel ban on 13 countries. Two more countries were added on 20th March 2020. Several State Governments including Rivers, Ekiti, Kaduna announced lock down. On 30th March, 2020, the Federal Government announced a lock down in FCT and two states (Lagos and Ogun).

A review of Nigeria response will indicate that there has been appropriate policy response based on the WHO guidelines. When there were no cases, the government prepared for response including designated COVID-19 hospitals both at the federal and state levels. Mechanism was put in place for screening, care of the infected, contract tracing and subsequently lock down of two states(Lagos and Ogun) and FCT by the Federal Government and over ten states by state governments including Delta, Ekiti, Rivers and Kaduna States. The challenge has been the adequacy of the plans, capacity of the designated hospitals, number of tests that can be conducted daily especially given the large population of the country. Concretely, the challenges that have faced the response in Nigeria include leadership and co-ordination, capacity of the health system, testing, management of lock down, enforcement of social distancing, provision of palliatives, support by citizens and strategic communication. We have argued earlier that leadership is critical to the response to help minimise impact, save lives, protect property and infrastructure and restore public trust in government. There is a huge challenge of co-ordination between federal government, state government, private sector, NGO and citizens in the response in Nigeria. There is huge capacity gap of the health system to cope including availability of motivated workforce, testing kits and other equipment. The capacity of the health system to respond to the pandemic is low. Over the years, with a combination of poor funding, brain drain and poor stewardship, the capacity of the health sector is low. The capacity for daily testing of 50 persons is very low compared to other countries. The management of the lock down has also been a big challenge. Those exempted from the exercise have challenges getting transport of navigating through security check points. The conduct of some security officers in enforcing the lockdown is counterproductive. In lagos, some of them destroyed good of citizens and in Delta one person was killed. Enforcement of social distancing is still a challenge. Many people appear not to see the magnitude of the challenge in addition to the fact that changing habit is very difficult. One of the biggest challenges is the provision of palliatives. The response of the Federal Government is to continue with provision of cash transfer to the poorest of the poor which it has been doing. This posed a lot of challenges because the project covers just above eleven million people and there are over 100 million Nigerians living below poverty line. Indeed, this will probably be the greatest challenge and government and other stakeholders need to ramp up response in this regard. This is the only way to get support of citizens which is critical for the response. These challenges outlined above are being exacerbated by poor strategic communication, poor health system and transparency and accountability issues.

The next two weeks will be crucial for the response in Nigeria. First and foremost, there will be the need to extend the lock down because the most effective strategy is to focus on prevention and control especially as we have poor health system and inadequate capacity for testing. Secondly, there is the need to improve co-ordination among all arms and tiers of government as well as other stakeholders. There is the need for a robust mechanism to get volunteers in all areas of the response even beyond medical personnel. Capacity for testing need to be ramped up quickly as government procures more testing materials. The security agencies should develop and publish protocols for policing the lockdown. The army should not be involved in policing the lockdown for they are not trained for such duties. The provision of palliatives should be increased and well managed in a transparent manner. There must be a verifiable list of all beneficiaries. Finally, strategic communication needs to be ramped up. This is where volunteers may be useful. There is the need to involve religious leaders and civil society organisations in community communication and mobilisation. Finally, transparency and accountability in the response will increase citizens support for the process. This is the time to implement President Muhammadu Buhari directive that expenditure should be published online regularly. The COVID-19 response team at all levels should be giving regular financial update of their expenditure showing the cost of purchases. This will help monitoring as prices of items can be verified.

The COVID-19 disease is a rampaging pandemic across the world. The WHO has issued many guidelines to manage the pandemic. Nigeria is doing fairly well in managing the pandemic using the WHO guidelines but there are many challenges exacerbated by the governance challenges in the country. The country is at a critical stage at the moment. If we look at the exponential growth experienced in the other countries, the outlook becomes scary for Nigeria and the next two weeks will be critical in the response. Countries like Italy, Spain, US and UK moved quickly from a few cases to thousands of cases within a period of one month. For instance, while there were only 21 cases in Italy on 21 February 2020, by 27th March 2020, it has increased to 86,498. In France, it increased from 18 cases on 26th February 2020 to 32,964 on 27th March 2020. In United States, it increased from 16 cases on 21st February 2020 to 100,037 on 27th March 2020. In Germany, it increased from 18 cases on 25th February 2020 to 50,178 on 27th March 2020. In Spain, it increased from 25 cases on 25th February 2020 to 64,059 on 27th March 2020. The only way to prevent this kind of scenario in Nigeria is to strengthen the prevention and control measures in the coming weeks and manage the challenges that flow from it especially in terms of leadership, co-ordination, palliatives and accountability.

A Case for the Establishment of a Special Army for Biological Warfare in Nigeria.

G.V. Dania, O.M. Ogedoh.

Nothing in recent history has brought the world to her knees like the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The threat posed by a disease outbreak of this proportion makes any threat from chemical, cyber or nuclear warfare fade in comparison. Even the United States of America with all its artillery and technological know-how has been humbled by a single virus that is smaller than 1/10th the size of a bullet. While there are contentions as to how the virus emerged, one thing is certain; disease outbreaks of this nature pose existential threats to humanity, and how nations prepare to respond to similar outbreaks in the future will make all the difference. This article will make a case for the establishment of a Special Army for Biological Warfare (SABW) in Nigeria and suggest ways the establishment can defend Nigerians against biological weapons.

But first, what is a biological weapon?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Biological weapons are microorganisms like virus, bacteria, fungi, or other toxins that are produced and released deliberately to cause disease and death in humans, animals or plants. Biological agents, like anthrax, botulinum toxin and plague can pose a difficult public health challenge causing large numbers of deaths in a short amount of time while being difficult to contain (WHO, 2020). As you can imagine, biological weapons attack can result to epidemics or pandemics. WHO also states that Biological weapons is a subset of a larger class of weapons referred to as weapons of mass destruction, which also includes chemical, nuclear and radiological weapons. The use of biological agents is a serious problem, and the risk of using these agents in a bioterrorist attack is increasing (WHO, 2020).

Outbreaks of deadly diseases is not new in history. Even the Bible made reference to it in the Psalms “For He will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly diseases” (New Living Translation, 2015). What is relatively new is the deliberate use of infectious diseases as weapons in warfare or for bioterrorism. According to Friedrich Frischknecht
(Frischknecht, 2003), during the past century, more than 500 million people died of infectious diseases. Several tens of thousands of these deaths were due to the deliberate release of pathogens or toxins, mostly by the Japanese during their attacks on China during the Second World War. Two international treaties outlawed biological weapons in 1925 and 1972, but they have largely failed to stop countries from conducting offensive weapons research and large-scale production of biological weapons.

The question is, “What if biological weapons like deadly diseases become the major weapon for warfare in the future? It is scary to imagine a future where biological weapons are used for warfare, but it’s a reality we must prepare for. As John F. Kennedy stated in his inaugural address in 1961 “For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed” (The Avalon Project, 1961).

The COVID-19 outbreak has exposed a major loophole in our national security architecture. A Loophole which we must address. Failure to prepare for this may lead to dire consequences in the future. Nigeria needs an army who understands how microorganisms work, how to protect Nigerians against microbial attacks, and how to create biological weapons for warfare should the need arises. If this is done, maybe those who read courses like Microbiology, Biochemistry, Zoology and the likes, will finally find something meaningful to do with their degrees.

Whether the proposed Nigeria Special Army for Biological warfare should be under the leadership of the Nigeria army, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control or a separate entity under the federal government will be a matter for the National Assembly to decide.

Frischknecht, F. (2003, June 4). The history of biological warfare. EMBO reports, pp. 47-52.

New Living Translation. (2015). Psalms 91:3. IL: Tyndale House Foundation.

The Avalon Project. (1961, January 20). Inaugural Address of John F. Kennedy. Retrieved from Yale Law school Lillian Goldman Law Library:

WHO. (2020, April 4). Biological weapons. Retrieved from World Health Organization: