President Muhammadu Buhari ordered lockdown
Monday, April 6, marked one week of the lockdown of Nigeria’s seat of government, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, Lagos, the commercial capital and the adjoining Ogun state by the federal government.
The formal lockdown of the aforementioned states was announced by President Muhammadu Buhari, in a nationwide broadcast a day before, where he outlined government’s measures to curtail the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.
Like the federal government, most state governments across the country have embarked on one form of lockdown or the other to stop the spread of coronavirus in their states.
Some of the measures include restriction of movement in their states and closing of boundaries with other states. Other measures include adherence to the social distance directives as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Federal Ministry of Health, and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) among others.
Some of the measures also include closure of markets, shops and other businesses except those selling foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals. These measures were meant to force Nigerians to stay at home for the initial period of 14 days to invariably track, isolate and treat identified Covid-19 patients and ensure that the Covid-19 positive Nigerians do not transmit the virus to others.
It is a process that has been tried and tested in China and South Korea among others to good effect.
One week after the federal and state governments’ lockdown hunger appears to be a major threat to the total compliance with the lockdown and other measures to curtail the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
While announcing the lockdown of Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states, President Muhammadu Buhari, had said that palliative measures have been taken to ensure that the most vulnerable in the society does not suffer much hardships within the period of the lockdown.
It was a responsibility that was assigned to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs. For a country that is having problems with reliable data, it was always going to be difficult to reach all Nigerians that are in need of financial assistance to survive in this trying period.
Little wonder that despite the best efforts of the Ministry for Humanitarian Affairs, and other donor organizations, many Nigerians have complained that they have not been reached by officials of the federal and state governments distributing the palliatives.
Faced with the challenge of feeding themselves and their families many breadwinners have been forced to disobey government’s guidelines on the lockdown leading to confrontation with security agents enforcing the lockdown across the country.
This has also resulted to the government being forced to relax some of the restrictive measures including opening of the hitherto closed markets and shops for some hours of the day thereby posing threat to the effort to stop the spread of the virus.
This is not good for a country that needs to do all that it could to stop community transmission which is far more difficult to control than index cases from foreign countries.
While one appreciates the need to allow families to make purchases under the lockdown, this should be done while strictly adhering to the NCDC guidelines on how people should conduct themselves to avoid the spread of the virus.
That is why it is saddening to observe that some of the palliatives are distributed in form of cash and in a crowded environment which had left a lot to be desired.
That is why going forward it is advisable that such palliatives should be sent to the beneficiaries through their bank accounts to avoid overcrowding that exposes them to the coronavirus transmission.
One other area that needs to be addressed is the abuse by the security agents enforcing the lockdown in various parts of the country.
There are widespread reports of Nigerians being assaulted by security agents. This is counterproductive to the effort to curtail the spread of Covid-19. It appears that some of the security agents are not properly briefed by their superiors on what their responsibilities are in the ongoing lockdowns in the country.
Worried by this development the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) recently advised Nigerians to report cases of abuse to the commission for appropriate action.
A statement by the executive secretary of the commission, Tony Ojukwu, directed members of the public to report by telephone calls or text messages or video to relevant staff of the commission and ensure that such report included the location of the violation, date, time of such violations including a clear description of alleged violators and their victims, their gender and vulnerability.
While one condemns abuse of power by some of the security agents, it is also important to advise the public to stay at home so that they will not have any reason to come in contact with security agents enforcing the lockdown in the country.
As a matter of fact the defeat of coronavirus could be achieved quicker if there is more compliance with the NCDC directives by the public. And the compliance demanded from Nigerians at this time is to stay at home, maintain social distance, wash hands regularly with soap and running water, use hand sanitizer and to report anyone who recently returned from Covid-19 endemic country to the NCDC if the person failed to voluntarily report to the NCDC for appropriate action.
We know that many Nigerians are not finding it easy with the lockdown which has paralyzed economic activities. It is a sacrifice we have to make to save this country from catastrophy that could befall her if the virus is allowed to escalate to the level of community transmission which could overwhelm our medical system’s capacity to cope.
The message to all Nigerians is to comply with all the directives by the Federal Ministry of Health, NCDC, WHO and other medical authorities in order to save this nation from calamity. We overcame Ebola virus! United we shall also overcome Coronavirus!!