Wherever it existed, it was generally expected that the prevailing lockdown to contain the ravaging worldwide coronavirus would not be a one-off slam. The extension in limited parts of Nigeria could, therefore, not have been a surprise. Given the inconvenience and apparent discomfort of the previous fortnight, murmurings and, in minor cases, understandable public protests, against extending the lockdown for a further fortnight erupted. Yet, the discomfort is child’s play compared to the human disaster on-going in Europe and United States.
This is not to say there is no room for relaxing the tension on a minor scale, as is being done in other parts of the world. The onslaught against coronavirus is for human beings (in our case, Nigerians) to survive hale and hearty, rather than emaciated by starvation or maimed by the brutality of security forces comprising policemen and soldiers. There is also the ridiculous government decision that anybody with up to N5,000 in bank account would not benefit from state palliative. In short, to be classified as poor, no Nigerian must be worth N5,000. In a situation where the same government could purchase a car of over N30 million for each member of House of Representatives? Fortunately, coronavirus is ravaging the world at the same time. Response from one country to another is, therefore, noticeable. In other parts of the world, as a relief for the poor, the average for the poor is 80 per cent of minimum wage for three months. Does it mean that, against a car of N30 million for each member of House of Representatives, Nigeria cannot afford 80 per cent of minimum wage of N18,000, a minimum of N15,000? The new minimum wage of N30,000 is yet to be ratified in many states.
This threat to humanity, coronavirus, also reveals that all over the world human beings are virtually the same. Self-discipline or lack of it is an example. Nigerians, this time, ride high. Nigerian actress Funke Akindele? She held a party for her hubby inside their apartment. Already punished, but she is not a public office holder and, so far, hers is the only remarkable of such indiscretion. Akindele’s gender colleagues almost skinned the poor lady. Hypocrisy? Surely not. But hold your view till those critics attain similar affluence and status, though coronavirus will never be here again.
In other parts of the world on lockdown in the war against coronavirus, New Zealand’s health minister David Clark drove to the beach with his family to enjoy sunshine while fellow citizens were indoors. The minister was demoted by female Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. In Scotland, while the lockdown was on, the chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood breached the curfew by travelling from Edinbourgh to her country home. A supervisor of the prevailing health hazard, Calderwood had to resign. In South Africa, Minister of Communications and Digital Technology, Stella Ndabeni Abrahams, in the midst of the lockdown, went for lunch with an old friend. Despite the fact that the minister was high-ranking, President Cyril Ramaphosa suspended her for two months.
In Britain, armed with new emergency powers of arrest, policemen mostly advised crurfew breakers to move away from beaches and go home for isolation. In South Africa, over 17,000 arrests had been made. Their Nigerian counterparts are less than 200.
In southwest Nigeria, the curfew has not been without its brighter side, in unleashing seemingly talented comedians, entertaining those who care with nerve-cracking jokes of various manipulations, concoctions, fabus and sweet nonsense. As an aside, some were equally inciting and provocative along ethnic lines.Consider this. To get the message home to ordinary Nigerians, the Presidential Task Force on Coronavirus, under Boss Mustapha, at one of its daily briefings, arranged for questions to be asked and answered in Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo. I watched the programme. What followed later shows the damage being done to this country by anarchists.
Someone mischievously butchered the video clip to mislead rather falsely that the press briefing was addressed only in Igbo and Hausa. The fake news was then WhatsApped for circulation, with a compelling admonition: “Must Watch: So, at the ministerial briefing on Covid-19, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, chose to address the nation in Hausa language. Following in his footstep, the correspondent of Igbo service of Radio Nigeria posed her question in Igbo language. I love this. Watch the video clip.” I then had to give the sender the correct version of that ceremony: “This is baseless allegation of persecution complex. Internal Affairs Minister Rauf Aregbesola also addressed the press briefing in Yoruba. I watched the programme. Aregbesola is alive and will confirm taking and answering questions in Yoruba.”
That, I would like to believe, halted the circulation of that inciting and malicious falsehood. Aregbesola since attended a second briefing where he, again, took and answered questions in Yoruba along with others who, respectively, took their turns in Igbo and Hausa. Suppose I did not watch the programme or did not correct the malicious falsehood, mind-poisoning would gradually polute the atmosphere, leading to inter-ethnic explosion.
Undoubtedly, in line with steps taken by erstwhile economically-buoyant countries to jump-start their countries after wiping out coronavirus, Nigeria’s Central Bank again flew the kite about a half a trillion naira intervention fund to stimulate the economy through the real sector. Are we sleeping in this country? SERAP, trade unionists led by Ayuba Wabba, student unions and the media, what happened to the aviation intervention fund and indeed all intervention funds of the past? On the last count, AMCON, under Muiz Banire, listed entire debt to be N5 trillion, out of which only 20 Nigerians, repeat, only 20 Nigerians, are owing 67 per cent. Nigeria’s current budget is barely N10 trillion, and some Nigerians are owing N5 trillion.
Rightly or wrongly, to finance the budget, Nigeria has been applying for loans all over the place or dipping into all available reserves at home. Fast depleting foreign reserves, stabilisation fund, sovereign wealth fund, etc. As a simulation, Central Bank assures that the half a trillion loan would be for only those with the CAPACITY to repay. So, that capacity was not ensured when the series of loans/intervention funds accumulating to N5 trillion were being dished out to today’s debtors? Or if the capacity to repay the N5 trillion debt was ensured, what happened?
By past experiences, the very moment the half a trillion naira Central Bank’s economic boost takes off, Nigeria’s locusts will emerge. What is more, regroup and descend as real sector investors. They were there to loot the oil subsidy 10 years ago when politicians, bankers, industrialists, etc, all became emergency oil suppliers, importers, marketers who did nothing of the sort but freely looted Nigeria with their party membership.
Yes, there was the alarm that Nigeria would slide into recession never seen in the last 30 years. That is not peculiar, nor can it be sourced to government’s poor economic management. Rather, it is some kind of Armageddon caused by coronavirus and not even the generally presumed growing economies in the world, United States, Britain, Europe, are exempt and none of them has a debt of trillions unpaid by crooks. Britain faces its worst recession in 300 years and unemployment in United States has reached 17 million.
Intervention fund is never repaid in Nigeria. The confidence of the debtors is that, eventually, banks will write it off as bad debt and they are correct. Watch out for EFCC’s probe of the N5 trillion highlighted by AMCON.