Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Fred Itua, Benjamin Babine, Abuja, Sunday Ani and Romanus Okoye, David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi,
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, announced the extension of 14-day lockdown in other to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
He said the decision became necessary having considered the briefings and report from the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and the various options offered.
He said the approach to the virus remains in two steps: “First, to protect the lives of our fellow Nigerians and residents living here and second, to preserve the livelihoods of workers and business owners.
“With this in mind and having carefully considered the briefings and report from the Presidential Task Force and the various options offered, it has become necessary to extend the current restriction of movement in Lagos and Ogun states as well as the FCT for another 14 days effective from 11:59 pm on Monday, 13th of April, 2020. I am, therefore, once again asking you all to work with government in this fight.”
Buhari stressed that the public health response to COVID-19 is built on his administration’s ability to detect, test and admit cases as well as trace all their contacts.
He said the cessation of movement, physical distancing measures and the prohibition of mass gatherings remained the most efficient and effective way of reducing the transmission of the virus.
Lockdown extension unrealistic, insensitive –PRP
Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) has described the extension of the lockdown as unrealistic, insensitive, disappointing and tantamount to playing fiddle while Rome burns.
In a statement by its National Chairman, Alhaji Falalu Bello, the party called on government to urgently review the strategies with a view to fashioning out more effective, appropriate and sustainable approaches to managing the Coronavirus challenge.
It urged the government to invest massively in the medical infrastructure and training for contact tracing of confirmed cases, their isolation and treatment, as well as the provision of protective gear for health workers, immediately prepare stimulus packages for sectors of the national economy which are going to be worst affected by the pandemic in the coming months, such as small-holder agriculture, small and medium enterprises, operators in the informal sectors of the economy and selected strategic industries, reopening of the public services while maintaining social-distancing in the work-place and commercial operations, immediately probe the fairy tale distribution of N20,000 each to 2.6 million Nigerians in four days as a means of confirming what happened.”
Mixed reactions greet anouncement
Former minister of Information and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Prince Tony Momoh, described the extension as necessary and urged Nigerians to be patient.
He insisted that being alive should come first before anything else.
“You have to be alive before you do business, go to church or do any other thing. Saudi Arabia has locked up its praying houses and even cancelled Umra. The Pope could not even conduct open mass; he did it behind the scene. Many churches beamed their service on television. So, if the gain we have had through this social distancing is cancelled by the president by saying that everything should go back to normal and we now have community spread in a country of over 200 million people, do you know how many people we stand to lose? So, the extension is necessary and we should all be patient. It is only when there is life that you can talk of doing business. This is a very dangerous disease that we have in our midst…So, let us endure the pain until it is over,” he advised.
But spokesman of Afenifere Renewal Group, Dr. Yinka Odumakin, said extending the lockdown without rolling out package to cushion the effect could lead to crisis. He said in normal time when there is no lockdown, Nigerians fond it difficult to survive.
“So, to now put them under perpetual lockdown without palliatives may be counterproductive. Government promised to give two months electricity rebate to Nigerians as a way of cushioning the effect of the two weeks lockdown, but it has reneged on that. Beyond the rice they are giving to people we don’t even know, you can’t keep people indoors beyond 14 days without palliatives,” he stressed.
In his reaction, the National President of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, said in as much as government’s effort to ensure the virus did not spread is appreciated, people must also survive.
He warned that if immediate palliative package was not rolled out, Nigerians might resort to disobeying the lockdown order.
“Globally, leaders are sensitive to the masses of their country at various levels, but in the case of Nigeria, it is clear that leaders are not sensitive to the plight of the people. Rather, they are busy asking people to stay at home without anything to cushion the effect of such stay-at-home order. It is very unfair; Nigerians don’t deserve this. The government must look for a way to assist people because from all indication, people are frustrated and they are dying of hunger on a daily basis. If you look at the he number of people dying of COVID-19 and those dying of hunger, you would realise that the latter is more. People are dying of hunger on a daily basis. This cannot continue like this. Government must find a way of giving palliatives to the people to make it easy for people to survive. If this continues, people might begin to resist any attempt by anybody to keep them indoors but we don’t pray to get to that level. Government must do something immediately,” he admonished.
Also reacting, National President, Society of Theatre Artists (SONTA), Prof. Alex Asigbo, said it was not enough to extend the stay at home without addressing many issues surrounding the lockdown.
“Nigerians are hungry. In Lagos and Ogun states, there are reports of hoodlums attacking people. There may be no justification for crime. But the stark reality on ground is that people need more than the government has done so far. For instance, ASUU has been on strike and their members have not being paid. These are people with relatives and many dependants. Government should be serious about combating the pandemic. Even the security agencies are sabotaging the perceived efforts if the government. They don’t wear masks forgetting that uniforms are not immune to COVID-19. They even extort the already overstretched people.
Also reacting, former second vice president, NBA, Monday Ubani said: “What makes this policy prone to failure is the economic lifestyle of the majority that depends on daily businesses, sales and tradings for self survival. Demanding that they stay in doors without adequate palliatives as other advanced nations are doing will lead to a sort of flagrant disobedience to the policy and what the government fears most may likely happen if this is not addressed urgently.
“Already there is a break down of law and order in some African countries on the sit-at-home policy where the people are not getting any financial or food assistance from their government. They are disobeying the sit-at-home policy and going to their normal businesses eventhough the security agents are killing some of them as reported in the news media. It is reported that the security agents have killed more of the citizens than the virus itself.
“Extending the total lockdowns without addressing these defects and anomalies as enumerated, they should expect repugnant disobedience and criminality from the majority of the hopeless and hapless citizens.
“In Lagos, Nigeria, many communities have not been sleeping due to the menace of hoodlums, armed robbery and other criminal acts due to hunger. Hunger has become more dangerous than the coronavirus, pushing many into crime of robbery, house and store breaking for self survival.
“The government is hereby advised to take a holistic view of the sit at home policy with a view to correcting the issue of palliatives to the citizens to avoid a revolution of the majority against an uncaring government. It is a plea.”
FCT residents urge FG to end lockdown
Some residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, also urged President Buhari to put an end to the lockdown.
The residents said they were experiencing varying degrees of financial and economic constrains and frustrations caused by inactivity.
An electrical contractor, Alfred Oshemughen, said the lockdown was a good decision by the government, adding, however, that the strain it brought on its wake was frustrating.
He said he had been experiencing financial difficulties since the lockdown was imposed by the president, as all his activities had come to a halt.
“Even people, who were supposed to remit money to me from previous transactions, have taken advantage of the lockdown to come up with all sorts of excuses,’’ he said.
He said government should end the lockdown, while residents should still continue adhering to the preventive measures outlined by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
He noted if people would keep to the social distancing directive of the NCDC, with regular washing of hands, the spread would be curtailed.
He added that prolonging the lockdown would impact negatively on the national economy and drain the lean resources of the people.
A businessman, Wifred Inyang, said he was appealing to the president to end the lockdown because of dwindling resources.
Though he acknowledged the fact that the lockdown was a sure way of curbing the spread, he lamented the toll it was taking on households was much.
But a teacher, Mrs Charity Nnamdi, said without the lockdown, the number of infected people in the FCT would have been alarming.
Mr Timothy Ukala, an economist, said government should only continue with the lockdown in places where the disease was on the rise.
He also said government should form a taskforce to monitor the distribution of the palliatives, as there was no exact data available.
“The reality is that poverty is obvious and everybody is vulnerable,’’ Ukala said.
Taxi drivers, food vendors and even laundry services have been hit hard. Many of these people are now confused and looking for other alternatives to feed their family.
A scene was caused near Area one roundabout on Monday, as a taxi driver whose car was seized stripped completely in public, while lamenting the hardship. The driver who disobeyed the lockdown order and went out to work, lamented that hunger was worse than coronavirus.
“I am not afraid of coronavirus, hunger virus is worse than coronavirus. I removed my clothes because I want the world to see that things are hard for us,” he wailed.
According to Mr. Gospel Nwanfor, CEO of Worthwheel Autos Limited, a company which manages vehicles and drivers for commercial car owners: “The lockdown came as a shock to me, we obviously knew that businesses will have to close at some point but we didn’t anticipate a complete and total lockdown. Our drivers who are under the weekly remittance scheme, have not remitted anything because there’s been no work. The turnover before the president announced was already going down because of the coronavirus fears, but now everything is on hold.
“That week, we had to slash the target of 25k that they had to meet so that it can be easy for them to pay. Now everything has completely stopped. Many of our clients have lost a lot of money and are losing money at the moment. The lockdown is having a huge negative for our business and every other transport related business. We are begging to government to quickly find a way to reopen the economy, by containing the virus as quickly as possible.