In what can be largely described as one of the most uncertain Monday mornings in Nigeria's recent history, millions are confused and uncertain over whether the lockdown to check the spread of coronavirus will continue or end today.
President Muhammadu Buhari on April 13 renewed the two-week stay-at-home order on Lagos and Ogun states as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), saying the extension was the right thing to do to contain the pandemic.
As at the time the President imposed the first lockdown on March 30, there were 131 cases in the country which moved to 343 on April 13.
As at Saturday night, there were 1,182 cases, with 35 deaths recorded.
Kano State which had no case as at March 30 and April 13 is fast becoming the epicentre of the virus spread with 77 cases as at Saturday. It was running fast behind Lagos State and the FCT in positive cases.
Besides, there have been many inexplicable deaths in the state which some people believe might not be unconnected with the virus.
President Buhari is expected to address the nation today on the way forward in the battle against the virus.
The knotty issue before the Federal Government is the effect of the lockdown on the FCT, Lagos, Ogun, already on one month lockdown, and Kano state, which is fast becoming the major concern.
It was learnt that there is pressure on the Federal Government to relax the lockdown to save the economy. Last night, the odds were in favour of partial restriction.
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) is in the forefront of the demand for partial restriction especially the restoration of internal movement in the states. Governors have already pledged to close their borders to inter-state movement for two weeks.
Overwhelmed by agitations for the partial lifting of the lockdown, the Presidential Task Force (PTF), the main advisory body on the pandemic fight, was weighing the options last night. Its scheduled meeting to take a decision failed to hold. The meeting, it was learnt, will now hold today ahead of the President’s expected broadcast. “The PTF review session fixed for Sunday (yesterday) was cancelled to get more input from stakeholders,” a source told The Nation on Sunday night.
He added: “There is pressure on the government to review the lockdown and put in place partial restrictions nationwide.
“Those demanding restrictions are claiming that prolonged lockdown will hurt the nation’s economy and set the masses against the government.
Already, some governors have begun playing politics with COVID-19 by not waiting for the response of the Federal Government to the input of the NGF. These governors have opted to end the total lockdown in their states.
“Our major fears are possible abuse of the partial restrictions and the likely spread of Coronavirus since we are at the level of community spread in all the states.
“We also do not want to run a government which will bring more pains to Nigerians.
“Whatever is our decision will be guided by the need to save the lives of Nigerians. We will look at all indices and what is applicable in other climes.”
The governors’ position made available in a statement after their teleconference meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on April 22 is as follows:
- Inter-state lockdown, excluding movement of essential supplies such as foods, beverages, medical and pharmaceuticals, petroleum supplies and agricultural products;
- Internal free movement but with restrictions on large gatherings and assemblies;
- Overnight curfews:
- Lockdown of flights; and
- Compulsory use of face masks/coverings in the public
On Sunday, a former Military Governor of Kaduna State, Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar warned against total lockdown as an option to contain the Coronavirus.
In a statement, titled: “Need to review Nigeria’s fight against Coronavirus,” Umar said: “As the second segment of the two weeks lockdown of some states and the FCT expires it is not evident what other measures the Federal Government and some of those states will adopt to control and stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
“Total lockdown is an effective measure that can ensure social distancing but it is also not sustainable in most Third world societies like Nigeria. We are referring to societies in which over 70% of the workforce is made up of daily wage earners.
“Governments of those societies must deploy measures which will protect lives and guarantee livelihoods to stop the spread of the virus while making it possible for the general public to secure their means of livelihood.
“The first task is to control and reduce the spread of the virus. One of the most effèctive ways is to enforce social and physical distancing. Things like total lockdown, stop any form of congregation and crowding. Sanitary measures like handwashing, use of face masks, gloves etc.
“Since most third World governments lack resources to adequately provide means of livelihood to a large segment of the society (i.e. the most vulnerable members) they must improvise strategies which will target such vulnerable citizens.
“One of the best ways is to embark on massive upgrade of medical facilities to provide easy testing, quarantine and treatment free of charge.
“If the Federal Government finds the need to give cash handout to the poor, it should do so through a more efficient channel i.e states and local governments.
“Another avenue is the huge reduction in food prices. The coronavirus pandemic has had huge inflationary impact on food prices. With restriction of movement, all farming activities will be adversely affected.
“This is time for the Federal Government to allow for massive import of foods particularly rice. It is a fact that imported rice is much cheaper than locally produced rice.
“With all the talk about a rice revolution, less than 30 per cent of the rice consumed in Nigeria is locally-produced. A 50kg of rice sold at about N7,000 in 2015, the price is currently N26,000.
Finally all tiers of government must suspend all other infrastructural projects and deploy all resources to the fight against coronavirus.”
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