The grim reality of COVID-19 was driven home into Nigerians’ consciousness by President Muhammadu Buhari’s ad- dress on the evening of Sunday, March 29, 2020, during which he ordered a 14-day lockdown of Lagos, Abuja and Ogun, three states with large cases of reported coronavirus cases.
The Presidential address sparked a frenzy across the Lagos metropolis as citizens engaged in last-minute stockpiling of food and essential household items. The stay-at-home order also generated mixed reactions from Lagosians.
Some Lagosians like Chukwuma Aniekwe, a businessman at Lawanson, Surulere, applauded the measure taken by the government to check the spread of the dreaded disease. He, however, wondered how the poor can survive 14 days at home.
“It is good for the prevention of COV- ID 19 but at the same time, it is not every-body that is capable of doing that because most of the people can›t feed if they don›t come out to hustle every day,” he noted. “It is a very good idea as other countries did, but we need the support of government, because it is not every family that has money to stock food items. Government should try and help. Rich people can help too. It is a very difficult time.”
Chukwuebuka, a trader who deals in compressor also in Lawanson, saw the merit in government’s action. “But gov- ernment should have supported the individual financially with some token of money like N1, 000,” he insisted. “Staying at home, he opined, is not the problem. “but it is not everybody that can afford to do that. If we are ordered to stay indoors for one month, that won’t be a problem, as long as the government can help.”
He dwelt on the negative side of the lockdown: “Anyone who does not have food can die at home within the two weeks. The food available are very expensive, what will people who don’t have money do? Some people can die of hunger; and if they die, they would say that they were killed by the disease, mean-while hunger killed them.”
According to him, there wouldn’t be complains if the public was given enough notice to prepare for the lockdown. “Also, 14 days at a stretch is not good,” he railed.
Comrade Jerry Ugwu, National President, Igbo Youth Congress (IYM) took potshots at the President’s order. “He un- dermined the National Assembly that is supposed to pass a bill for State of Emergency for the affected states,” Ugwu asserted. “Also, he undermined the State Assembly of the three affected states and their governors.”
Ugwu clarified further: “The President was doing the right things but in the wrong direction.” He also pointed out the lack of adequate provisions for the masses who earn their livelihood through day-to-day activities. “Lastly, it is better we correct him now because tomorrow it will be in history and no one can challenge his action in the law of competent jurisdiction,” he said.
Ejike Ihejirika, an insurance broker admitted that the way and manner of the lockdown gave room for hunger and anger.
His view: “Given the fact that we don’t have the facilities and resources to cope with a severe outbreak of COVID-19, it is better we have the lockdown now, clean up and contain the spread. Otherwise, what is happening in Italy and America will be an underestimation. We should have a total lockdown now and rejoice later. Given our care-free attitude and the greed of our leaders, even if we are given enough money for this, we will squander it.”
Chief Austine Ikubese, MD/CEO, Joyce Travels and Tours Ltd, considered the inconveniences of the lockdown as sacrifices that are inevitable in a bid to reduce the spread and casualties of COVID-19.
“If Italy, Spain, the UK and USA who have recorded high rates of deaths by COVID-19 had taken a proactive ap- proach earlier enough by asking their people to stay at home for numbers of days or weeks, perhaps the numbers of those affected or the dead wouldn’t have been this much,” he noted, while appealing to Lagos State Health Authorities and NCDC to do more in the area of testing and giving health workers a good incen- tive that will encourage them to be more committed to their job.
He said: “For example, a week ago, we had a case of a Chinese in our estate in Satellite Town who came from China some 14 days ago. We got information from his closest neighbour that the house girl said the man was sick and refused to go to the hospital. It was when we went on air that we eventually got attention; it was understood that when the Chinese came in from China, he was told at the airport to self-quarantine, but he did not observe it. He was even at Trade Fair. So, no sacrifice is too much to avoid the spread of this deadly virus.”
Ngozi Okpalakunne, a media consultant, also agreed with the lockdown which she deemed a step in the right direction.
“In fact, the 14 days stay-at-home should have been observed earlier than now and the spread of the diseases would have not been much. It is not enough to advise the citizenry to stay at home; the government should enforce it. I know that it will certainly bring untold hardship to the poor masses, but one has to be alive to eat.”
On the other hand, she argued, there should be some assistance that wiii aid in cushioning the effect of the policy on the poor masses.
Others interviewed by Saturday Sun were less charitable in their responses. A man in his 30s approached for his com- ment on the issue vented his frustration on the reporter. “This woman, will you get out of my face?” he had barked. When his friends and colleagues tried to explain to him the need to talk to the reporter, he raved: “What nonsense, what do you want me to say? Our government does not listen, so get out of my face”, he re- torted.
Mrs Anne Asuquo bluntly described the stay-at-home order as stupid.
“Go to other countries that are also affected by this problem, their governments provided palliative to cushion the effect on their citizens. I don’t know why Ni- geria thing will always be different. They want hunger to finish us. That is their plan. How many people can now afford to buy a measure of garri at N1, 500 as against N400? It is terrible”, she lamented.
Mrs Jane Ewuzie, a public servant, was full of questions: “What becomes of those families that depend on day-to-day hustling to put food on their families table? How do we survive these two weeks?”
She took a dim view of President Buhari’s lockdown of Lagos. “This is not funny at all. In the foreign countries where this disease came from, their presi- dents made provision of income (finance) for them to stay at home, why is our own different? All they are interested in is to collect all the monies donated by corpo- rate organisations and some individuals and pocket it. This stay-at-home thing is not a smart decision because nothing has been put in place to assist us for the pe- riod of this disease. Although the objec- tive is to save lives, how do you save lives when you are about sending the same to death by hunger?
A tricycle rider who simply identified himself as Segun, while speaking to Sat- urday Sun expressed shock at the whole situation. “I have never seen this kind of thing in my life. I only witnessed something close to this during the June 12 political crises. This one is worse.”
Segun, married with three kids, wondered how he was going to feed his family and still pay for the Keke which he acquired through a loan. “I took the Keke on loan for N1.25million. I have only paid N850, 000. I still have another N400, 000 to complete my payment and the owner of the Keke is threatening hell out of my life.”