It’s no news to most Nigerians that the one month long lockdown which was imposed on the people residing in Lagos,Ogun states , and FCT Abuja, as a means to curb the spread of the pandemic virus, COVID 19 , has been alleviated ,following the announcement by the incumbent President of the country,Nigeria, wherein these states(the focal of this discourse) are situated. This new development , President Muhammad Buhari claimed and I quote is “due to the heavy economic cost of the lockdown and the need to protect health while also preserving livelihoods”. In line with the easing of lockdown restrictions , the new measures imposed includes a ban on interstate travel, mandating the use of face mask and a curfew from 8pm to 6am. Accordingly, existing restriction on large social and religious gathering still remains.
However, this development which will take effect on the 4th of May 2020 in these states(with the exception of Kano state in which a two weeks total lockdown was ordered) as announced in the evening of April 27th by the president which came at a time when Nigeria’s rate of confirmed cases is statistically reflecting sharp growth, asks a number of worrying questions which will be probed in this work.
The question that begs for an answer is “whether the easement of lockdown restriction is a way forward or otherwise”
In answering this question ,the writer’s mind is averted to certain factors and posers which will be discussed seriatim hereinafter.
Firstly, the drastic increase in number of cases recorded daily in these states despite the lockdown is quite alarming and worrisome. As of today, the total number recorded cases in the country is 1532 ( with Lagos State having the highest number) an alarming increase when compared to the number we had two week ago which was, 323. What will now be the fate of the residents in these states following the easement?
Secondly, is the use of face mask a guaranteed preventive measures? If answered in the affirmative, has government implemented any means to make it available to the poor masses as the price of these masks has been inflated from N50 to N200 which poor Nigerian cannot afford as they rather use such money to feed their families. How about the inevitable physical contact with people in commercial buses , market and basically our daily human lives, sarcastically I ask , can face mask prevent such contact?
Another question that continually rings a bell when I heard the President announced a curfew to be held from 8pm to 6am during the subsistence of the easement is ” if the viruses is only communicable during this period?” Or if I may of what importance is the imposition of the curfew? To fulfill all righteousness I would say.
To give the benefit of doubt, how feasible will the curfew be in a city like Lagos where traffic congestion is the order of the day? On the 20th of April 2020, during the subsistence of the total lockdown in Lagos state, a picture was shared showing heavy traffic on Third Mainland bridge which supposedly are essential workers . Won’t there be increase in the rate of accident in order to (permit me to use the word) “beat traffic” and meet up with time before the curfew begin.
Conversely, I am quickly reminded of the poor masses who feed from hand to mouth and have no other mean of livelihood if they don’t go out daily to do some menial jobs, sell products or provide services which are not considered essential during the total lockdown of these state. How about private worker ,most especially school teacher whose management has not enough to feed let alone pay their workers for work not done.
Worst still, the absence of relief packages from the government to ordinary Nigerians for their upkeep during this period as turned a lot to the street and online beggars. All we see are pictures of numbers of bags of rice and stalks of money disbursed to “God knows who” all over the net. Even the billions of naira donated by public spirited individual to the government are not properly accounted for. Surprisingly, even banks who claims to have the interest of their customer in heart remitted huge amount of money to the government to fight this virus . Why not, look into the record of their customer to see those who are likely to be in need during this period and disburse the money directly to their accounts? In my opinion this will to a large extent,rather than giving to the government ,help the masses whose means of livelihood are affected by the lockdown and consequently help them to obey the sit-at-home order.
The resultant effect of the lack of palliative to the masses is a more deadlier virus “HUNGER” and generally untold hardships in the nation at large. Without doubt, If this lockdown was not alleviated, the increase in crime rate will be alarming as people will resort to all sort of dirty activities in broad daylight with the excuse of having nothing to eat.
The writer is not also ignorant of the adverse effect of the lockdown on the economy of the country. The economic downturn in Nigeria triggered by a combination of declining oil price and spillovers from the COVID-19 outbreak, which not only led to a fall in the demand for oil products but also stopped economic activities from taking place when social distancing policies were enforced. Educational sector is not left unaffected neither is religious gatherings.
Having considered the above factors, the writer while acknowledging the adverse effects of the total lockdown of the state submits that easing of movement in Lagos State, Ogun state and Abuja is not the way forward as it will only lead to increase in number of cases which the country by and large cannot manage , and consequently increase in mortality rate. What the government should have done is to sit back and await the response and effectiveness of other countries which have implemented this new development and not just join these wagon as the adverse effects if care is not taken may be unbearable for the country .