FEATURE: WHO IS TO BLAME WHEN THE LOCKDOWN RULES ARE FLOUTED IN NIGERIA?

By: Mercy Aremu/ www.africanakua.com, Nigeria

In Nigeria and the world at large, Coronavirus is the word currently on the lips of everybody, young and old, male and female.

Sensitization about the virus is everywhere. Currently, according to Worldometer the number of deaths globally caused by this virus as at today, 14th April, 2020 is 1,938,840.

When discovered in Wuhan, China in December 2019, most countries were unconcerned forgetting that globalization has further opened every continent’s borders to greater blessings and risks. It was not until the virus started killing people on a large scale across the globe that the world realized that everybody was at a high risk. Now everyone has come to terms with reality that we are all facing a common enemy.

In the effort to break the spread of the Coronavirus, most governments ordered a lockdown in their countries with the popular hashtags #Stayathome or #Stayhome which are trending massively on social media. This compulsory stay at home and the issues associated with it especially in Nigeria (West Africa) is what I would like us to critically examine.

On the 29th of March, 2020 by 7pm, the Nigerian President, Muhammed Buhari, mandated a compulsory lockdown of Lagos state, Abuja state and Ogun state. These states share borders with Lagos state.

Prior to this official lockdown by the federal government, the Lagos state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, had already declared a partial lockdown on the 26th of March, 2020 stating closure of offices, markets selling non-essentials, schools and reduced all social gatherings in the state to 25 persons. This was because the first case of the COVID-19 was confirmed in Lagos state by the Federal Ministry of Health on the 27th of February, 2020.

Moreover, Lagos state, a popular metropolitan city has a population of 21 million based on the National Bureau of Statistics in Nigeria. With all these in mind, it is important to note that according to the National Social Safety Nets Coordinating Office (NASSCO), about 9.45 million of the entire population of 21 million are poor. The Nigerian Statistic reports that 8.5 percent of the near 21 million people living in Lagos, Nigeria, live in abject poverty – thus 1.7 million people! The question and topic of contention is “if before the lockdown in Lagos 1.7 million struggled to feed on a daily basis, how are they going to survive when everywhere is shut down?”

Approaching this compulsory lockdown from the ethical angle, we can justify it with the popular ethical theory of utilitarianism where actions are judged if and only if they produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. If we are to critically analyze this statement, we would discover that yes, the lockdown favors everyone in the sense that it helps stop the spread of the virus and as a result helps save lives and the human race.

But would the lives that would be saved be “happy” according to the popular theory which I have referred to in the paragraph above? In other words, how would the poor and the vulnerable who form the 1.7 million people living in Lagos be have their basic needs satisfied?

Street Hawkers in Nigeria

Remember in Nigeria, there are only two classes of people. The elite and the peasant classes; there is no middle class. You are either very rich or very poor. The very poor class include the jobless people who find it very difficult to afford a square meal a day. The homeless Lagosians, who sleep under bridges, uncompleted buildings, in shacks and on pavements etc. They are mostly the beggars of food and money on the streets. There are also the petty traders, and the “hustlers” who make their daily living by doing odd jobs for others to get their wages.

What about the transporters (okada riders and truck pushers) who convey people to their places of destination, and the ‘agberos’ or touts who feed from these transporters on a daily basis? Then those youths who make a living by selling their goods during traffic how are they going to cope during this lockdown?

You might suggest intervention by donor agencies and benevolent organizations and individuals in Nigeria should be encouraged but, DO NOT FORGET THAT MONEY WORTH 700 BILLION NAIRA THAT WAS RAISED FOR THE COVID-19 RELIEF FUND WAS ALLEGEDLY BURNT TO ASHES on 8th April, 2020; barely a week into the lockdown. How insensitive! How mean! How wicked!!!!!!

We know that several billions of Naira, foodstuffs, healthcare equipment and foreign donations have been made in the effort to help fight the covid-19 and to support the vulnerable. But it is not a matter to be debated on that the Nigerian government is corrupt. The concern of everyone is whatever happened to those monies and equipment since they never got into the hands of those who truly needed them- the poor and the vulnerable.

It came as no surprise that Nigerians were fed with the fake news on the 9th of April, 2020, during a press interview of the Finance Minister, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, that the government lost 700 billion Naira from the Covid-19 Relief Funds due to the fire outbreak that happened at the Treasury House on  8th April, 2020.

Mrs. Zainab Ahmed – Nigerian Finance Minister

As we are into the second week of the lock down, prices of foodstuffs in the markets have doubled and Lagosians are already worried, hungry and breaking this order by coming out to buy and sell so as to make ends meet.

It should be pointed out that I am not against the lockdown as it is all in a bid to save our lives but it should also be noted that when the government fails in their responsibility of backing up their laws with the adequate actions – Tenderness, Firmness and Power-  they should not expect full compliance from their citizens and they should be ready to tolerate members of the community who have no choice but to break the law in an attempt to survive.

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