By Isa Isawade
It’s already eight days into the total lockdown of select states in Nigeria as announced by President Muhammadu Buhari in order to curtail spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) of which the confirmed cases have kept rising in the country.
Some other states who were not listed in the president’s broadcast voluntarily joined the lockdown, while a state like Ogun tarried till Friday before carrying out the directive.
At initial stage, some argued that the government’s decision to lock down the states was an overkill, while many others said the measure was even taken belatedly.
Government also pledged that stimulus packages would be launched in order to cushion hardship the lockdown would visit on the people. To realise this, notable corporate entities and wealthy individuals in the country have continued to donate heavily to both the federal and state governments.
However, distribution of the relief food items by Lagos State Government has publicly received low mark as over 90% of residents said the programme remained a mirage. But, there is unanimity of opinion among residents regarding propriety of the lockdown measure as expressed in this vox pop carried out in Lagos.
Mr. Mustapha Ogunsakin (Publisher of GAVEL International): Every drastic problem deserves a drastic solution. I think that’s what the government has done. So, I don’t think it’s extreme. The only problem we have in this clime is unpreparedness and negligence to issues. When we see people in organised societies suffering casualties in thousands, it gets to that point where we take the step.
That is why I will enjoin everyone of goodwill to comply and observe social distance for now; it’s important. I know it’s not easy in a country where people don’t have savings, where people live by the day, where we have 80% of Nigerians living from hand to mouth, and I think that is why government is working to cushion effects of the lockdown.
But, we are so unorganised in this country that government does not have reliable data on Nigerians, but during elections they know how to get Nigerians’ votes. They know how to share rice and money during elections. Why are they not using the same method? I am a vice chairman of the CDA of my area. We received from the Lagos State Government only two packs of 3kg of rice, 3kg of garri, 3kg of beans, 2 sachets of tomato paste and one loaf of bread. They brought just two packs of these items to a community of more than 300 families. How do we distribute that?
At the end of the day we reached out to 6 widows. We gave 2 widows the two sets of 3kg bag of rice, 2 widows took 3kg bag of garri each, and the beans went to two widows. That package is supposed to be for each family, in an area densely populated by struggling people. So, if the lockdown continues without government alleviating the sufferings of the people, cases of stealing and robbery will increase.
Alhaji Abdulhakeem Adeleke (Politician): I think the lockdown is necessary. It’s for the safety of our lives. When we try to evaluate what is happening globally, I think it is very necessary because prevention is better than cure. So, it is best for us to bear it now and later on get the permanent relief.
Though, it’s very difficult because business is not moving again; everything is standstill. But we just have to bear it. But, as to the government’s relief package, we are not feeling its impact in my area at all. We are just hearing it, we have not seen anything. I think it will be better for them to be going from house to house to distribute whatever relief items they have for the people.
Alhaji Najeem Oyesigi (Businessman): The lockdown is a welcome development, it’s the practice globally and we need to abide so as to avoid the consequences. Concerning the relief materials, it’s like we don’t have people who know the nation’s problems. Whatever they want to do has to be known to people. I don’t know anything about relief items being distributed. At least, government has data of about 40% of Nigerians through the BVN. They can get across to low income earners through it. They know how to reach out to certain categories of people who really need assistance.
Ayilara Rapheal (Company technician and community leader): The lockdown is necessary and it’s the best thing. It has happened in other countries. We’ve heard that if the measure was not taken, it could escalate and cause more problems for us. But, provision for the people is important. You know, 80% of Nigerians are living from hand to mouth. Many Nigerians will have nothing to eat if they don’t work daily.
So, if government wants it to be effective, it should make provision for people’s survival, maybe by giving them money category by category. And this is the reason Nigeria needs to have correct data of every citizen, so as to know in which category each person falls and know how to help them. We heard they shared some food items to people, but nobody saw anything here. If they made the arrangement well, it would get to people because every house has number in Lagos.
Ustaz Qaasim Idrees (Imam, Subulu salam Mosque, Ikola): Really, looking at the measure taken by the government, to me I support it because that is the only way they can reduce spread of the virus. The only aspect the government needs to work on is when you pass a law and people obey, then you need to assist them by making provision for relief. They need to provide relief for the pains people are presently passing through. That is the area I think government should look into. As for the alleged Lagos government’s relief effort, I am yet to see anything in my area. Other countries with lockdown are providing for their citizens. Our government needs to do same. If they fail to do that, the results may be worse than the harm of coronavirus.
Sylvester Omojaguean (Businessman): I follow the government law; the sit at home is necessary because the coronavirus is real. But, we need provision to continue living. We have been hearing that food items are distributed in some places, but we here at Command, Agbadao-Oke Odo have not seen anything.
James Nzeadighibe (Businessman and community leader): The lockdown is a commendable effort on the part of the government to contain the disease. But if you are locking down people without making provision for their welfare, you are pushing them to their early death because hunger is more severe. Therefore, there is need for the government to put measures in place to provide for the people affected by the lockdown. We just hear on television that Lagos State Government is distributing food items, but we have not seen anything here. If they really want to do it, every house in this area gets land use charge, why can’t they use that to distribute the relief items?
Iya Afin Adeniyi (Retiree and community leader): It’s good the way government said we should stay at home to stop spread of the virus, but the most important aspect of it is feeding. How do we get food to buy? They have closed down major markets. Government said they would bring markets to vicinities, we are yet to see one in our area. They can station one at Alade Stadium for us to buy foods. Feeding has become a major problem for us. About government relief items, we just hear it, we have not seen anything here.
Mrs. Ileaanuoluwa (Housewife): Government’s decision to lockdown is wise. But, government needs to make food available to us. It is difficult for people to remain without food. We have not received any relief package from government. At Gbenaje Area, we have not received anything. They can use the chairmen of CDAs to distribute relief items to residents.
Pastor Daniel Babalola: The government’s sit at home order is good for our own safety, but they should know that people have to eat. There are people in Nigeria such as transporters, artisans and market women who would have nothing to eat if they don’t go out. So, government needs to make provisions for the citizens’ survival. We have obeyed the order. Government, especially in Lagos should make provisions for its teeming residents. They can distribute money to people through their account numbers.
Oyeleke Muideen (Chief Imam, Ikola-Agbenaje Central Mosque): The lockdown order to stop the spread of coronavirus is in order. But, the other side of it is that when you are locking people down without provision for survival it’s like caging an animal without feeding it, automatically it will die. 70% of people in Lagos cannot survive if they don’t go out to look for food. So, it’s a big punishment if they are locked in without providing food for them.
What I heard yesterday was that a quarter bag of rice was sent to our CDA Chairman which he delivered to the community. Quarter bag of rice for a community of more than one thousand people? It is a shame. My advice to the rich among us is to come out to assist the people directly. Allah says in the Qur’an that He raised some people higher than others, so this is the time they can give out charity that Allah will accept. Those who have should bring it out for people not to start dying of hunger. All big mosques that have money in accounts should start buying food items and distributing it to people now.