Cosmas Omegoh and Christy Anyanwu
The Coronavirus disease is here for real. The sustained pandemic onslaught is steadily taking its toll. Its victims’ numbers are rising sky-high every passing hour.
But not minding the virus’ deadly spread, a few Nigerians are profiting from its presence. It is throwing up new opportunities for some people. The smart ones are taking advantage by conducting brisk businesses and making some money legitimately. To them, the virus is a blessing in disguise or so it seems.
Sunday Sun investigation revealed that COVID-19 is opening new vistas. Some people around town are gaining from businesses being held out by the Coronavirus.
For instance, at the moment, some people are producing assorted face masks, face shields and hand sanitisers. Some are making posters and handbills being used to warn Nigerians about the dangers of Coronavirus and the appropriate non-pharmaceutical intervention strategies to fight it.
Also various establishments are making and distributing water dispensing bowls for hand washing; some are making liquid soaps for easy hand wash too just as some others are producing bucket stands. And now, the items being produced are providing trading opportunities for individuals helping to distribute them. They are making a living from their efforts. In the same manner, some individuals and corporate bodies are producing various publicity media used in drawing attention to the unseen enemy now waging unrelenting war against humanity. Everyone involved in the production or distribution chain of these items is making some cool cash amid the squeeze brought upon humanity by the deadly disease.
COVID-19 inspires new line of products
“Before the outbreak of COVID-19, we were focusing more on producing safety apparels for oil and gas.
“We make fire retarded outfits for those in oil and gas industry and some uniforms for security purposes.
“But when COVID-19 broke out, we now had to retool so that we will be able to make masks, face shields, medical scrubs, reusable coveralls, shoe covers and a whole lot of items,” Mr Obinna Eneh, founder of Xirea Apparels and Buphalo Active Gear based in Port Harcourt, said.
While enumerating some of his company’s new line of COVID-19 related products, Mr Eneh said: “Right now, we make face masks, face shields, coveralls, scrubs for nurses and doctors.
“For face masks, we have done more than 200,000. Our product has high-filtering ability; it is comfortable to wear; it has excellent ventilation.
“For shields, we have produced about 12,000. It is not the flimsy type you see around these days. Our shields are sturdy and well built. Some shields that are open at the top, especially those that look like glasses are not too good.
“Shields are not supposed to open at the top; someone who is taller than you might have COVID-19 and coughs; that means the shields have to be closed at the top. That is the way ours are. A lot of people don’t know these details, they just build.”
He told our correspondent that he had even started exporting his products to neighbouring countries.
“We are dispatching these items to Niger Republic, Cameroun right from our Port Harcourt factory. That is in addition to the number we distribute nationwide.
“Our face mask is light weight, durable and reusable.
“Our face shields have distinctive features of ultra-clear, distortion-free plastic shield; they fit over glasses, face masks and respirators; they have a curved edge and smooth finish for maximum comfort,” he said.
According to him, the company’s coverall has unique features; it is washable and highly durable; it has barrier protection from fluids, elastic wrists, ankles and hood.
“Our medical scrubs are easy to wash and wear. They are available in a huge selection of colours and have three front shirt pockets and five trouser pockets; they fit everyone,” he said.
Local tailors now produce face masks
Our correspondent reports that there are various types of face masks in circulation. For instance, there is the most popular one made of fabric of the Ankara stuff, with straps to the ear lobes. There is also one made from synthetic materials and another made of fibre materials. Equally, there is the transparent face shield made of plastic materials which many wear to show off. Trust, some smart ones have already introduced a fake, blurry version into the market.
These items are already serving as articles of trade not only to individual hawkers on the streets, but also to small-scale businesses at every corner who display them for sale. Everyone is making as much money as they could.
Our reporter gathered that the popular Ankra materials are being made by small scale tailors in some neigbourhoods.
Some of the nose masks bear the marks of the ingenuity of the individuals that produced them. Those of them which were cheaply sown easily slack after some days of use.
However, they can be washed and reused again and again as the relevant authorities have said.
“I’m a tailor; I sew women blouses, skirts, gowns and other materials.
“I just decided to start sewing face masks in addition to what I currently do. You know that in this Coronavirus times, many people are no long sewing clothes the way they used to.
“I started experimenting on sewing face masks when I saw the way the Lagos State COVID-19 team used to raid our area of Ijeshatedo, packing people who are not wearing their face masks. I started by making one for myself and when I saw that it was good, I thought about making more for sale.
“The first few I produced sold out as quickly as I displayed them for sale. So, I was encouraged to do more. People have been coming to pick them since them.
“I might consider producing more if I have the resources and people who will be willing to hawk them on the streets.
“Everyone is mandated to wear a mask these days as the government says to protect themselves. That is why something tells me it will sell,” Inebong, a lady seamstress, told our reporter in Ijeshatedo, Surulere.
She explained that to produce a face mask is as simple as doing any other tailoring job, adding that a committed person can sew as many as 50 pieces in a matter of an hour.
Hawkers now sell face mask for a living
At major bus stops and popular spots across Lagos, there are petty traders hawking various types of nose masks. The hawkers range from young boys and girls to elderly men and women.
At Cele bus stop on Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Oshodi, Ikeja, Mile 2 and Ojuelegba, the hawkers are common sight. They trust the items to every passer-by, making the usual calls, “buy your nose masks.”
“On a good day, I sell up to 30 nose masks,” a boy who identified herself simply as Yinka told our reporter.
“I’m an SS2 student. We have been at home all this while, so I have to be engaged in this to assist my parents,” he said.
According to him, each nose mask costs a N100. And there were times he said he sold a little more than 30 pieces a day. And there were days the figure was far less, depending on how generous fate was to him.
Police, COVID-19 enforcing team boost sales
It was gathered that sometimes both the police and Lagos State COVID-19 protocol enforcement team could serve as enablers without knowing it. Both parties sometimes hit the streets, chasing individuals who are not wearing their nose masks; for their fear nowadays in Lagos could be the beginning of wisdom. When the latter roles out into the streets – as it often does – the likes of Yinka is sure to hit a jack pot.
“The police or the Lagos State COVID-19 team often help us to sell our nose masks.
“On such days, individuals who don’t have any face mask would be stampeded to patronise us.
“Our nose mask is cheap. It is just N100. So, it is better for a defaulter to grab one than to face the threat of arrest and detention or possibly be forced to pay money to the police,” Yinka said.
COVID-19 inspires hand sanitisers production
Our correspondent further noted that it was amazing how within a short while, some Nigerians learnt how to produce hand sanitisers. Before now, some people were making liquid soaps, but had to add the latter as it had become imperative for everyone to use the item regularly to fight COVID-19.
Amid warnings that there were some fake sanitisers in circulation, some people are going ahead to produce their own brands and getting patronage.
A lad, Elijah, who passed out of secondary school last year, told our correspondent that before the advent of COVID-19, his mother was producing liquid soaps, but quickly had to go for hand sanitiser training just to produce the commodity to make ends meet.
“I have learnt from my mom, so right now it a family business of some sort,” he said.
He showed our correspondent the soaps and hand sanitisers they had made. The hand sanitisers were in 100cl, 200cl and 500cl plastic bottles, with the least of them going for N300.
“The patronage has not been very high because we just started production. But we believe that as we continue to push further, more and more people will come to patronise us.
“But we have market for our soaps. Some offices need them now more than before because of Coronavirus,” he said.
Our correspondent gathered that at the moment, some cosmetics firms in Lagos have been producing more hand sanitisers to meet the demand of the population that need it because of the novel Coronavirus.
When the warning started ringing out that Nigerians should begin to adopt the use of hand sanitisers to prevent Coronavirus, some supermarkets in Lagos began to hike the prices of the item. For instance, a 100ml bottle made by a popular manufacturer was being sold for N700, at a supermarket in Surulere.
Printers too benefit from COVID-19
Equally, the Coronavirus is providing opportunities for petty printer who are making flex banners, warning people to wear their face masks.
In front of some establishments right now, flex banners are hung to remind visitors of the need to be responsible. Some of them boldly announce: “No face mask, no entry.”
A petty artist, Kola Ibrahim, who has an outfit around Ojuelegba area of Lagos told our correspondent that shortly after the outbreak of Coronavirus, he had been producing flex banners for his customers who ask for them.
“Nowadays, some companies hang the banners on their entrance gates to remind their visitors that they must wear their face masks.
“Their agents walk in here and I produce that for them.
“Sometimes, some individuals come around to ask for one or two pieces and I sell to them. The proceeds are not fantastic, but what else can I do to sustain myself in these difficult times?
“For me, that is a window which the Coronavirus has opened at a time like this. We will take each one of them as they come while wishing that the virus goes away someday; we pray that it happens soon,” he stated.
COVID-19 inspiring jobs
While Coronavirus has sadly claimed victims, Eneh believes that on the other hand, it has been a blessing in disguise of sort to the extent that some jobs have been provided to some hitherto jobless few.
“The pandemic has inspired some jobs. I’m keeping people working who would have been jobless and staying at home. So far, we have not laid off anybody.
“We have over a 100 people working now even when we trained close to 350 people. We train and we hire them as the need arises. Everyone working for us we trained from the scratch. We simply didn’t hire any tailor; we picked people from the community; we train them and give them jobs,’ he revealed.