By Vivian Onyebukwa and Elizabeth Ogunbamowo
With the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic within and outside Nigeria in recent weeks, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) has stressed the need for Nigerians to maintain the existing protocols, viz wear masks, wash their hands regularly and to maintain a healthy social distance.
Speaking on what health experts see as the second wave of the pandemic, the chairperson of the PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha, lamented the risk of not just losing our gains in hard work in the past nine months, but also losing precious lives of the citizens.
The Federal government, on its own, expressed concern over the resurgence and hinted that its earlier decision to reopen the economy may have to be reviewed. Many Nigerians take that to mean that it is contemplating possible lockdown of the country the second time like many countries have opted to, in recent weeks.
Why second lockdown is not realistic – Respondents
But in a chat with Saturday Sun, Austine Ikubese, the MD/CEO Joyce Travels and Tours Ltd., noted that the second lockdown for Nigeria whenever it comes, will be like finding oneself in-between the devil and the deep blue sea. According to him, with Nigeria in very serious economic crisis already, in short, recession, slamming a second lockdown on the country will only worsen matters for the masses.
“We all know what happened to most of the palliatives as exposed by the #EndSars protests after it was hijacked by hoodlums. Yes COVID 19 kills. But my submission is that it can be managed if we adhere to all the protective measures and guidelines set out by NCDC (Nigeria Centre for Disease Control) and the Presidential Task Force. Hunger has no remedy except food. So I don’t think the government should go into a second lockdown considering the fact that our case is not as bad as those in the Western world because of our climate and immune system.”
In its place, he suggested partial lockdown that could still allow the economy to function. This, he added, is to be done in addition to observing necessary preventive protocols like wearing of masks, washing of hands, use of sanitizer and observance of approved social distance.
Like Ikubese, Bambo Ademiluyi, Managing Director, Quaint Agencies Ltd, expressly advised against the alleged second lockdown being contemplated by the states and federal government.
“A total lockdown for a long period may be dangerous,” he warned. “Since this is a holiday period and buying and selling usually slows down after Christmas and New Year a partial lockdown say, for about a week is the only thing we can manage at this point.” “Considering the numerous unpalatable fallouts of the first lockdown which most people are yet to recover from, a second lockdown will be a tough decision for the government to make, and twice as tough for citizens to comply with”, Ebele Enemchukwu, CEO, WABIO, offered. Ebele, former Mrs Tourism United Nations World, explained why it wont be easy this time around. “Most people are at a point where they are giving their final push to see what they can make out of the final days of this infamous year 2020. People are least tolerant to anything that sounds like a lockdown of any shape or form. There is severe hunger in the land. The violence and looting after the #EndSars movement ruined many businesses. Add that to the fact that some people believe that there is no coronavirus in Nigeria, while some others have come to believe they can- not contract the disease. How do you get such people to stay indoors for fear of something they don’t believe exists in the first place? Tough. Our mantra must therefore remain: “Safety First.” May God save our land and guide our leaders right.”
Lawyers, businessman, health experts, politicians weigh in
Chigoziri Ojiaka, a lawyer and university don, sees second lockdown as imminent, and blames the masses for disobeying the COVID 19 protocols. “The second wave of COVID-19 pandemic has been ravaging countries of the world. If the virus continues to spread, lockdown will be imminent,” she said. “If it happens I will attribute it to people’s refusal to take responsibility by obeying protocols, which is dangerous.”
Like others, she, however, foresees a devastating effect of the lockdown on the citizens. “If a lockdown is imposed the second time, it will have devastating effects on the lives of those within the informal economy,” she said. “Those who earn daily income and are dependent on people’s patronage will bear the brunt of the hardship. This is why I insist that people should take responsibility and observe protocols to curtail the spread and avert a second lockdown.”
To Ngozi Udombana, also a lawyer and lecturer, “we are yet to recover from the effect of the first lockdown. A second lockdown will be too devastating for everyone, especially majority of people who can’t survive for more than a few days without going out to earn their living. I am glad that Lagos State governor, Sanwo Olu recognises this and clearly stated that Lagos State cannot afford a second lockdown. The better solution would be for everyone to take responsibility and observe the specified protocols. Unfortunately, many people are still not convinced that COVID-19 is real and many of those who believe that it is real consider it too remote to affect them. The good thing is that God has been very gracious to us in this part of the world and l trust He will continue to be”.
Eugene Mmeka, freight forwarder, agrees with Ojiaka and Udombana’s observation on the possible effect of another lockdown. “This economy cannot take another shutdown,” he said. “The government in power does not want to do anything and keeping people at home is tantamount to suicide. What do you want people to eat, sitting down in a place? In Europe and America, governments drop food at doorsteps of buildings. In America, government just approved a relief package. They approved $300 for unemployment benefits, while $600 is for a family with a kid. While here they will hoard the palliatives. Imo state government has restricted their lock- down to civil servants by closing the state secretariat leaving only permanent secretaries and political appointees are to come to work. Also in Lagos, only level 14 and above are allowed to go to work. They should not contemplate any lockdown because the citizenry is hungry.”
Prince Comrade Jerry Ugwu, National President, Igbo Youth Congress, (IYC), blames the government for what he described as its insensitivity towards the welfare of the masses. “We are yet to recover from the first lockdown and they are calling for the second one,” he said. “Actually, it will not be accepted because the way and manner they treated people last time will make this not to be funny at all. My interest is for the government to make adequate provisions for the masses before announcing any lockdown and to make sure that the provisions get to the people before they can obey their order, just as it is being done in other countries. I sincerely appeal on behalf of our people.They are dying on a daily basis just because of hunger and you want to lock them down again without food? The government should rethink before it is too late”.
Chukwumah Emmanuel, a public health practitioner is also of the view that a second lockdown is definitely going to cripple more, the economy. “It’s going to cripple a lot of things the more,” he warned. “Businesses are just trying to pick up; debts are accumulating for the citizens without direct impact on the alleviation of the sufferings of the Nigerian populace. I think the government should apply more techniques in handling this.”
Emmanuel, President, Professional Association of Spa and Cosmetologists in Nigeria, added that a lot more needs to be done by Nigerians through strict compliance with the use of facemask, handwash, sanitizers and maintaining social distance. When it comes to health quality standards, we have a lot of queries to answer both for health practitioners and the general public.”
Resondents proffer alternative solution to lockdown
Monica Obioha, a media consultant and businesswoman, equally advised the government to forget about lockdown. “Lockdown is not the best option for Nigeria now considering the economic situation,” she said. “The best option is massive sensitization and establishment of mobile courts to ensure that people adhere to COVID-19 preventive rules like wearing of facemask and social distancing in public places.”
Sunday Elom, a political analyst, noted that Nigeria and US or Britain are not the same in terms of economy, administration and many things. “So we shouldn’t just run into lockdown whenever we find that those countries had gone into lockdown, because what it takes them to handle lockdown, we don’t have it,” he said. “During the first wave of the virus, there was no recession according to economic experts. But now that there is a recession, we should consider the poor masses who will be at the receiving end not just the middle class Nigerians who can handle it. Going into a second lockdown will be like mass murder of the people.”
Anu Afolabi, said she would not want a second lockdown because many people lost their jobs during the first lockdown while Ololade Akindele said it isn’t the way forward as she is yet to recover from the effect of the first one. She suggested that political and social gatherings should be stopped while travellers from high-risk regions can be stopped from entering the country.
Precious Austin fears that were that to happen, “many businesses will crumble and the financial standing of families might get shaky.” Adeleke Muibat said that the solution is to hasten the process of getting the vaccine rather than another lockdown.
A tricycle driver who plies Ikeja and Ogba, who identified himself as Lekan, told Saturday Sun that for government to contemplate second lockdown is to play with fire. “They should not try a second lockdown at all,” he said. “We are yet to recover from the first one in which people almost died of hunger. Now they want to impose another one. I am an ND certificate holder. Do they think I am happy riding Keke after going to school? They should be very careful else there will serious violence in this country. Enough is enough.”