On Tuesday, March 31, it was an excited band of assorted individuals that congregated at Omi-Ata Bus Stop along Agbelekale Road, the major road connecting Abule-Egba and Command in Agbado Oke-Odo Local Council Development Area (LCDA) of Lagos. It was Day 1 of the two-week total lockdown declared by the Federal Government. Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) were ordered to completely shut down economic and social activities in order to contain the spread of coronavirus that has claimed thousands of lives across the globe.
That day many youths in the area had converted the road to a football pitch. There was a group of drummers, just like many people were busy dancing on the road.
It is obvious that many people are still oblivious of the essence of the total lockdown. Some commentators also believe that the enforcement has not been holistic enough. To other pundits, government and its relevant agencies have performed below expectations in enlightening the people on why they should be indoors.
Since the disease penetrated into Nigeria, things have not been the same. The killer virus is no respecter of persons. It is attacking governors, princes and paupers alike. Front pages of newspapers, as well the electronic and social media have been fully occupied by COVID-19 news.
Religious, economic and social activities, schooling, football games and others have been suspended. Besides those offering essential services, everyone in Lagos, for instance, has been advised to sit at home.
Many people have also been complaining of hunger, saying people need to work in order to feed. Some others have accused the government of not providing packages that could ameliorate the sufferings of the people within these trying times.
But how have the people been faring in the days of lockdown?
Enforcement mostly on highways, major roads
In most parts of Lagos, economic activities are ongoing, even though things might not be as before. Artisans, shop owners and other entrepreneurs are going about their businesses.
A shop owner who sells electrical parts in the Abule Egba axis, Mr. Emmanuel Etim, told the reporter that so long as many people were not gathering at his shop, there was no cause for alarm.
“I am not part of the people that are affected. I’m not in the open space and I cannot cause any trouble. But I’m watchful in case the police might come. But so far, I have not been disturbed by anybody for about a week now,” he said.
When asked why he was taking the risk and contravening the government order, he said that he was there to fend for his family. He argued further that, since he was not receiving any help from government to feed his family during the two-week lockdown, he needed to take desperate steps to save his family from hunger.
A commercial motorbike operator who gave his name as Musa, said he was careful not to attract the police or other security agents.
“Some of my friends said that policemen drive through this road like once or twice in a day. But I have not seen them since last week. I have been working every day and making quick money because we now charge double because of the risks,” he said.
Private vehicle owners, who are not on essential duties, have also been driving unmolested in many parts of Lagos.
Commercial motorcycles, tricycles ply major roads
Between Agbele Bus Stop and Iyana-Ipaja, commercial motorbikes and tricycles have been working without hindrance.
On the Ile-Iwe-Ile-Epo route, a few tricycles were seen working in the morning. But anything from 6pm, it is like a normal working day for the transport operators. The only abnormal thing is that they charge double of the fare.
Motorcycles seem to be working round the clock even on the major roads. Some of them ride in front of Ile-Iwe Police Station without fear of being arrested.
People trekking miles
As the shutdown continues, some persons offering essential services are lamenting because there are no public buses to get them to their offices.
Those who don’t have personal means of mobility but have to be at their workplaces every day are feeling the heat. Some of these people are operators of pharmaceutical stores, bakers and sellers of food items, who live kilometres away from their workplaces.
A food vendor at Sango, who lives in Alakuko, Mrs. Itua Okuns, told the reporter on the telephone that going from her house and returning after the day’s sales was like a camel passing through the eye of a needle.
“It is not easy for me and my goods. My own case is worse because I live in Lagos but sell my food in Ogun. To get a vehicle is a problem. When the vehicle gets to Tollgate, the security men at the roadblock will sometimes delay me for almost 30 minutes even when they see me carrying cooked foods. They will say that they are obeying orders from Abuja,” she lamented.
A man was said to have walked from Ijaye area to Shogunle, to collect foodstuff that was sent to him from his hometown in Kogi State.
Football matches everywhere
Even as the government and health experts are preaching social distancing to contain the virus, youths in their numbers are trooping out to the streets for football games.
On many streets, youths are seen every day playing football matches. A football game is characterised by heavy physical contact between the players.
In one of the matches monitored by the reporter, it was clear that the over 60 people there were not bothered about the dangers of their action.
Another thing that is common is the rate at which people now gather to consume alcoholic beverages.
At one of the spots at Vulcanizer Bus Stop in Alimosho Local Government Area (LGA), young men numbering more than 10 now pool money to cook food and buy big bottles of gin, which they all eat and drink together. This has become more of a tradition for the spare parts dealers at a major market in Lagos, as they are seen converging every afternoon.
One of them said: “They can close our shops but they cannot take away our friendship. Coronavirus or whatever they call it is not our portion. The money to drink is not a problem,” the man said.
Inadequate food packs
As part of Lagos State government’s efforts to reduce the plight of people who would be gravely affected by the complete shutdown, it disbursed food items to some households. But the food packages have been described as infinitesimal by many.
The government has received many knocks over the quantity of the foodstuff and the strategy adopted in distributing it.
It was chaos at Ile-Iwe Primary School, where the foods were distributed to the indigent in the area. More than 200 people had gathered hours before government officials arrived the centre for the disbursement. It was survival of the fittest.
Some persons angrily left the place, saying it was a waste of effort queuing for hours to get just two Derica tins of rice. And with more than half of the people still in line, it was announced that the food had been exhausted.
At Festac Extension in Mile 2, a woman said on a radio phone-in programme that 13 flats got one loaf of bread and four cups of beans each. She added that more than 30 families were given one bag of rice.
There were also claims that some persons hijacked the food distribution process and cornered a huge part of the items for themselves and associates.
Parents lament as children eat more
With the stay-at-home order and indefinite closure of schools nationwide, children are mostly indoors, and many parents are complaining.
Prices of food items have skyrocketed beyond the reach of many people. Many companies are proposing and negotiating a slash in their workers’ pay. COVID-19 is one disease that is rapidly changing a whole lot of things.
More residents react
A legal practitioner in Lagos, Hafis Olalekan Olaniyan, said: “I see the lockdown as something necessary for our sake, considering the COVID-19 pandemic. It has afforded me to exercise my body, read more books, research and be with my family.
“It’s disheartening, however, that, despite the lockdown, government did nothing to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians whose lives depend on daily income. All we hear is disbursement of billions of naira, which really has no effect on the citizenry or common man.
“My advice is for government to do something to mitigate the hardship that people are going through at this critical time. They need to understand that some persons need to work every day before they can feed.”
A trader who deals in fairly used laptops, Mr. Boniface Unachkwu, said: “Well, we’re in it already, though it has not been easy. It’s just that the situation actually requires desperate measures so that we all can be safe.
“But staying at home has not been helping matters for many of us, considering the already harsh economic situation. Unfortunately, the government has no adequate plan in place to better the lot of the less privileged.
“Before the lockdown, things were not easy. With the lockdown now, we are almost begging to feed. My business is locked down and I have to feed my family. My wife does not also go to work for now as a result of the government order. You can see that the entire family is trapped.”
Mrs. Josephine Ebo, a past district chairman of International Inner Wheel, District 911, said the malady was biting hard on humanity with impunity. She said, for the first time in the history of the world, powerbrokers have been cowed, and the impact and losses are unquantifiable.
She called on everyone to return to God. She expressed the belief that, if nations repent and turn to God, He would wipe away sorrow from the surface of the earth.
A teacher in a private school, Mr. Adesola Segun, said: “My family members and I have been washing hands and sanitising like every 15 minutes. Though it is tiring, the lockdown has allowed me time to bond with my family as well as plan ahead.
“If everyone can stay at home with their family members, it will help to reduce the spread. And in no time, Nigeria will be out of the pandemic.”
Another resident, Mr. Herbert Mike said: “My children have been asking me a lot of questions about what is going on. I try as much as I can to educate them about the situation of things in Nigeria and the world. At some points, I will be looking for answers myself.
“I stay indoors almost all day; I sleep, wake up, eat, shower, rest and watch movies. This is not easy. But if it is what will save my life and those of others, fine.”