Musa Jibril, Kate Halim And Lawrence Enyoghasu
The stay-at-home order in some states with coronavirus cases have telling impact on social and economic life of the populace. In a state like Lagos with the highest cases of COVID-19, the strict measures became imperative to curb the spread of the contagion.
Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu had directed that “all public officers in the entire unified public service from grade level 1 to 12 which constitutes about 70% of our entire public workforce should stay at home from Monday 23rd March 2020 for 14 days at the first instance.”
Two days later, he announced a lock down effective from Thursday, March 26.
Saturday Sun went round the city to measure how lives are affected by the new reality and how Lagosians are coping with the strange new world order by coronavirus disease.
Devastation of events and occasions
One of the most prevalent ripple effects is that many people who have booked halls, paid caterers and planned weddings, burial ceremonies, child dedication and birthday parties next month are now cancelling their events or postponing them indefinitely. The worst-hit are event planners and food vendors who earn their living in this big industry.
Anthonia Ojenagbon, CEO of Silton Foods in Lagos known as super caterer for party foods, peppered snails and tiger nut milk told Saturday Sun she has lost a lot of money due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I was supposed to cater for four events next month but things are looking gloomy now because three of the events have been postponed indefinitely,” she said.
The fourth event, even though it held, was low key. She was supposed to cook for 500 guests, but the celebrant called her to cook for only 20 people and return the balance for 480 people from the money she paid her initially.
“I’m not happy about this but I have no choice but to do what my client said, ”Ojenagbon whined.
Priscilla Dikko, Principal Planner PeeXquisite Events and Cocktails had two events scheduled for April that won’t hold any longer because people are practising social distancing to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Dikko told Saturday Sun that she understands her clients and their reasons for either cancelling their events or postponing them indefinitely. “I was supposed to supply cocktail drinks at two events scheduled for next month but this is no longer possible,” she lamented.
According to Dikko, the possibility of postponing these events doesn’t guarantee that her clients will get the hall of their choices since halls are booked six months ahead of the events, hence the decision to cancel outrightly.
Dikko revealed that event planners are challenged by some vendors refusing to refund monies to the event planners. This has been problematic especially when there’s no contract between the planner and the vendors.
Some events like graduation ceremonies, birthdays, and child naming can easily be cancelled; others such as weddings and funerals are postponed at a great cost.
Mr. Harrison Onyeonu who lost his mother in November last year is an example. The final burial rite, scheduled for March 27, is no longer possible because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Onyeonu said that last week, his blood pressure rose to 200 at the moment of taking the decision. “I thought I was going to die,” he said. “My heart was beating too fast and I almost passed out after it was decided by my family members that my mother’s burial would no longer hold until this coronavirus pandemic is over.”
He added: “I spent money on posters, coffin, banners, food, drinks, singers, canopies, chairs and souvenirs and all for nothing. I don’t even know how to start all over again when the time comes. I am drained and tired.”
Gift Chikezie is one of those who have to cancel their wedding, nuptials originally scheduled for this weekend. The 28-year-old marketing executive of a Lekki firm is in low spirits. What was worse, it is also impossible to hold a court wedding in the meantime.
The couple was devastated having spent millions of naira planning a dream wedding that has to be postponed. As it stands, they can’t recover money from the event planner because some of the vendors have bought drinks, souvenirs and decorative items for the hall.
“I don’t even know where to start. I had a recent argument with my event planner two days ago. I wanted her to coordinate the vendors so that they can refund the money we paid but she told me it’s not possible because some of them have spent the money buying what they need for the event,” Chikezie wailed.
The saddest part of her story: Her fiancé is stuck abroad. He was supposed to arrive for his wedding two weeks ago but decided against it because it was clear that the wedding won’t hold any longer until further notice.
Leisure slowed down as bars, clubs shutdown,
With the ban on social gatherings, recreation centres and hang out across the state are experiencing hard times.
Saturday Sun found Box 18 Bar in Egbeda and Lite House club in Surulere empty of revellers, save for their skeletal workforce of waitress, bouncers, cleaners, chefs and DJs.
Managers at different businesses bemoaned their losses.
At Decency Spot, Saturday Sun approached one of the vendors who provided asun (spicy roast goat meat) for customers. He was quick to declare that he has been experiencing a bad streak since the discovery of COVID-19 cases in Lagos.
“Yesterday was the height of it all, I had to refrigerate the remains of the half-goat meat I bought. On a good day, I buy one a ration of one and half-goat meat but since the outbreak and ban on social gathering I reduced it to one goat per day, but yesterday, I bought half ration, still, I could not sell all of it,” he lamented.
“When business was good, my daily profit used to be five times the amount I bought the goat meat,” he disclosed.
Decency Spot admits an average of 80 customers at a go including those at its VIP corners, But the joint is now empty every day. One of its waitresses, Chioma, avowed that the bar rakes in at least N900, 000 at weekend.
“We have never been empty like this. We have had to switch off all our refrigerators to avoid the drinks turning into ice. I have served here for two years and we have never been empty on a Sunday at 6:00 pm,” Chioma stated.
Bouncers at another Surelere hangout, Bush Bar only allowed one customer to enter after one exited. Some customers bought their drinks from the gate to take home or somewhere else.
“We are trying not to break the law. We are the ones losing here. We want a situation where we will see you tomorrow after the storm is over,” the bouncer stated.
When the reporter was finally allowed in, he found not more than 20 patrons inside the vast hall. Popular delicacies, such as vegetable chicken, rice with pepper soup, suya with salad, goat meat sauce and barbecue fish that draw patrons to the bar, were non-existing.
Chijindu, one of the concessionaires who provide chicken delicacies at the bar told Saturday Sun: “I have been paying N10, 000 per day for my spot and not making up to N5, 000. How do you want me to cope, I’d rather not open than pay for the spot and not earn anything. The manager would understand because it is not that I am lazy but the situation in the country has led to this. This place has a capacity of 120 people but there is nobody here, they too are feeling the effect of the pandemic.”
Tales of woes for owners of bet shops and bettors
While many bet shops are opened, there are no activities going on inside there. An operator of a Bet9ja shop on Ijesha road was so bitter about the downturn he at first refused to talk to the reporter.
“Since all leagues were suspended, our business has been crippled. Not that there are no willing bettors, but the games are not there to bet upon,” he lamented.
“In the past weeks, some diehard bettors switched to virtual games, but even that dried up this week. As I speak to you, nobody has walked into my shop to bet since the past two days,” he added.
The situation was the same for other bet shops across the state. “The moment major leagues were suspended, I just knew that is the end of business for some time,” said James Hunve who runs a bet9ja shop in Aradagun, Badagry.
“People still drop in from time to time, just for old time’s sake,” he added, “not to play any game. Where is the game to bet on anyway?”
A bettor, Laide Kazeem, lamented: “I have been living off my betting luck for the past two years. There is no weekend I don’t win at least N50, 000. That is why I have not joined the bandwagon of those who complained that times are hard in Nigeria. But in the past three weeks, that income has disappeared. I tried to play ball, but it didn’t just feel like the real thing.”
Saturday Sun went round parts of the city to monitors how Lagos State Government stay-at-home order has been impacting on the society. On the morning of Thursday, March 26, commuters on Mile Two-Badagry express road was scanty. Buses plying the route had a difficult time getting passengers as those who lived in far-flung suburbia observed the stay-at-home order.
However, policemen on the road collecting N100 tolls from vehicles failed to observe any of the guidelines issued by health authorities. Along the Iyana Iba-Egbeda-Ikeja axis, bus operators also failed to comply with the guidelines of reduced passengers.
In Ikeja, transport association executives moved from one vehicle to another instructing drivers “By tomorrow, you must have a hand sanitizer in your bus.”
A few banks visited by Saturday Sun, are compliant with health guidelines, as they enforced social distancing inside and outside the banking halls and also installed hand sanitizer dispensers at their entrances and near ATM machines. In Ijesha, youths were making the most of their forced holiday playing football on deserted streets.