COVID-19 and clamour for nationwide lockdown

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Coronavirus
Coronavirus
Although a national lockdown may appear desirable at this time to contain the spread of coronavrus, but it may spell doom for a country without power, efficient healthcare services and reliable security system if  implemented.
By Anayo Ezugwu
NIGERIA is not far from a nation in a state of emergency now as Coronavirus spreads like wild fire. With almost all the states in the federation, including Presidential Villa under partial lockdown as of Thursday, March 26, a national lockdown is inevitable. But the question begging for answer is, how prepared are Nigerians and the government for the national lockdown?
The country has in the last one week seen a dramatic increase in the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus. Many concerned Nigerians believe that it is now time for a national lockdown, especially now that the disease has invaded Aso Rock, Nigeria’s seat of power. With an imminent lockdown, all citizens are required (as much as possible) to stay at home leaving room only for essential activities that allow for basic functions such as feeding and accessing healthcare.
The people, who are expected to go to work are those on essential duties to provide services such as healthcare and electricity; while no social gatherings will be allowed. Details of this will have to be worked out conscientiously. The statistics from the National Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, shows that the figure is increasing and may skyrocket over the next few days.
According to the NCDC, Nigeria has 51 confirmed cases with one death as of Wednesday, March 25. The NCDC said on its Twitter page that “Five new cases of #COVID19 have been confirmed in Nigeria: Two in the Federal Capital Territory, two in Lagos and one in Rivers State.  Three are returning travellers into Nigeria and two are close contacts of a confirmed case. As of 11:25pm, 25th March, there are 51 confirmed cases, two discharged, one death.”
With the way the spread is going, Nigerians are afraid that the numbers may skyrocket overnight and the country doesn’t have the health infrastructure to contain the spread. Governments are under pressure to initiate lockdown in a bid to check the spread from contacts, but the question many people are asking is how would Nigerians survive a lockdown?
A large number of the population depend on their daily income to feed, and the Nigerian government, unlike countries that made ‘stay at home’ provision, appears to have no contingency plans for people in that category. A vulcanizer, who refused to give his name, said he would rather die of coronavirus than stay at home and die of hunger.
Michael Babajide, a shopowner, said any total lockdown in the country will affect him because he lives on daily income.  “I earn daily income. Closing my shop is going to affect me greatly. I know it’s for my health and the health of others but how do I pay my bills?
“I have workers’ salary to pay too. If this thing lasts long and we can’t open our shop, I may be forced to sack my workers. I won’t be able to pay them with no work to generate money,” he said.
Another Nigerian, Rita Egbujovbo, resident of Abuja, questioned the move by government to lockdown the country. She noted that the government is yet to announce measures in place to address the concerns of private businesses and Nigerians living below the poverty line.
“The group under the poverty line, those that live by the day, how do you tell them to stay at home without providing for them? The government needs to intervene,” she said.
On his part, Dayo Emmanuel, resident of Lagos, said: “A country whose government does not know who lives where, whose government does not know who works where, whose government does not know who has a job or who has not, a government which does not know who has no home, a government which does not know how many the people are may find it difficult to cater for people at this time.
“When we shout that government must govern by data, government must be scientific, they’ll think we are speaking out of emotion now we are applauding countries like Canada which ordered a lockdown and still paying its citizens. They had prepared ahead by operating a caring, responsive and responsible government which can identify every individual at various levels. I think kindness should be taught in primary and secondary schools as a compulsory subject. I pray after this crisis, we shall learn. If we don’t, then the experience is a whole waste.”
These are the sentiments of many Nigerians. It also portrays a possible faceoff between the governments and the people if a lockdown order is announced in Nigeria. Full compliance with such an order will depend not on the government’s determination to contain coronavirus, but on people’s ability to endure hunger.
This might be the reason why

Atiku

, former vice president and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, during the 2019 presidential elections, said Nigerians deserve palliative measures. He urged the federal government to pay N10,000 to every Nigerian as a supplement for foodstuff.

Atiku also called on the telecom operators to offer each of the 100 million mobile phone lines in Nigeria free credit of at least N1,500 per mobile line, so that Nigerians, who show symptoms, or those who just want information, can call the nearest available health facility, or even an ambulance service, as the case may be. As part of his support, the former vice president donated N50 million as relief fund for Nigerians.
“As the coronavirus pandemic ravages the world, I applaud the various Nigerian state governments, which have proactively taken measures, such as issuing stay at home orders, and shutting down non-essential markets and other places of mass gatherings, while also giving guidelines for social distancing. However, we must accept the fact that much of the Nigerian public have a subsistence existence. A large percentage of our people do not have the financial capacity to withstand long periods of self-isolation and even lockdown.
“It is, therefore, incumbent on the Federal and state governments to provide palliatives to the Nigerian people to enable them to survive, even as they abide by these necessary measures put in place for their safety. At an approximate 30 million households or thereabouts, the government should devise modalities to distribute N10,000 as a supplement for foodstuff to each household, among other palliative measures, with no one left behind.
“It is thus time for the National Assembly to reconvene in an emergency session, perhaps by teleconference (in line with the demands of social distancing), to legislate a Stimulus Package Act that will cater for all Nigerian citizens. I also call on all Mobile Telephony Companies in Nigeria to urgently develop mobile money platforms so that the government can reach the unbanked with financial assistance.
“I also urge these telecommunications firms to offer each of the 100 million mobile phone lines in Nigeria free credit of at least N1,500 per mobile line, so that Nigerians who show symptoms, or those who just want information, can call the nearest available health facility, or even an ambulance service, as the case may be.
“I commend all individuals and corporate organisations which was have one way or the other provided some form of relief for the Nigerian people. In essence, this is what makes Nigeria great, when we help each other at such crisis times as this, irrespective of any differences. I further call on more corporations and individuals with capacity, to assist the public in these trying times. To this end, Priam Group pledges N50 million on my behalf as my humble contribution to a relief Fund that will form part of the stimulus package,” he said.
On the same note, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, has said that workers must not be made to shoulder the burden of the lockdown across the country. Ayuba Wabba, president, NLC, said government at all levels must ensure job and wage protection for Nigerian workers. “As it is, we foresee a situation where more factories and workplaces will experience closure and reduction in working hours. We insist that workers must not be cannon fodder for these socio-economic fallouts.
Ayuba Wabba
Ayuba Wabba

“In all of these, we demand job and wage protection. To make this possible, factories and businesses will require fiscal stimulus, financial aids and other macro-economic support incentives at this critical time. For millions of workers in the informal sectors, including our members in the transport, in the markets and all categories of artisans who are involved in involuntary lockdown, we demand cash grant through their associations to enable them cope during this difficult time,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, has urged Nigerians to comply with government directives on safe living. The organisation called for adequate funding of the health sector and the curbing of corruption by political office holders.
“CISLAC therefore urges citizens to abide by government directives on mass gathering and to observe personal hygiene, and imbibe healthy eating habits. CISLAC advocates that governments at local, state and federal levels be more prepared for disaster response and management to be able to curb the spread of Coronavirus and other epidemics. COVID-19 has, as of now, infected over 350, 000 people worldwide and killed 15, 000 globally,” it stated.
With the imminent national lockdown, the federal, state and local governments, including private sector should as a matter of urgency create palliative measures for over 100 million Nigerians living below the poverty line.
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