Apprehension as stay-at-home order over COVID-19 may be extended
Not many Nigerians, especially the vulnerable citizens in the country took the warning from the Minister Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, lightly that government might extend the on-going lockdown of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and the Ogun States if residents continued to violate the stay-at-home order so as to stem the spread of coronavirus. Mohammed, who dropped the hint of a possible extension of the lockdown, hinged his warning on the failure of the citizenry to comply with the stay-at-home order.
Although there is no evidence since the stay-at-home order was given that the number of positive cases of coronavirus victims has continued to increase with about 224 and five deaths. What might have triggered the minister’s statement is the approaching rainy season, which many consider could be a dangerous period for Nigeria if stringent measures are not taken to force people to adhere to the preventive measures prescribed to contain the spread. While Mohammed appealed to Nigerians to comply with the stay-at-home order during the stipulated period in view of the severity of the pandemic, several other stakeholders are not resting on their oars as they have lent their voices to ‘beg’ Nigerians on the need to adhere to the preventive measures, prominent among which are the stay-at-home and social distancing method for time being.
However, The Guardian notes from its observation that poverty level in the country adjudged the ‘Poverty Capital of the World’, coupled with absence of other critical infrastructure, including epileptic electricity supply, as factors make it impossible for many Nigerians to keep the stay-at-home order. Some of them vowed to rather die of coronavirus than stay indoors and die of hunger and other related diseases.
But the Lagos chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) has called on citizens to cooperate with the government over COVID-19 directive to stay-at-home to contain the pandemic from spreading.
In a conversation with The Guardian, state’s Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Seye Oladejo, commended Lagos State Government for its courageous, inspiring, professional, and reassuring response to the coronavirus scourge in the state, but was quick to add that such efforts could only yield necessary results if the people adhered to the stay-at-home order by the government.
Oladejo, who expressed concern that it was understandable that people may not have much in terms of financial power to stay indoors for 14 days, however, begged Nigerians to also understand that the government found itself in a precarious situation where it must protect life.
According to him, “It is when there is a life that we can talk about spending money or enjoy life. It is unfortunate that the pandemic caught the entire globe unaware, Nigeria inclusive and all hands are on deck to contain it.”
Recalling what Lagos State Government has done to contain the disease before the stay-at-home directives, Oladejo said, “Before the report of the Italian index case on February 22, 2020, the government had set necessary machinery in motion to protect the lives of its citizens in case of a full outbreak. The state government reactivated its bio-banking and bio-security laboratory at the Infectious Diseases Laboratory in Yaba. It embarked on massive sensitization and enlightenment programMEs through various media to draw the attention of the masses to the danger called COVID 19.”
He said all the directives preceding the lockdown of the state as announced during the presidential address, adding, “The Lagos State House of Assembly passed into law a bill titled: ‘A Law to Combat and Stop the Spread of Coronavirus Pandemic in Lagos State and for Connected Purposes’ that empowers the state governor to spend at least N20 billion to combat the pandemic in the state. It also empowers the security agencies to arrest residents who flout directives aimed at stopping the spread of the disease among others.
Oladejo, however, said such efforts would not produce result unless the people cooperated.
Said he, “We urge people to remain calm and professional all through. We enjoin all Lagosians to continue to cooperate with the government in this historic battle against COVID 19 by obeying all measures put in place for our collective wellbeing. We should continue to stay at home, observe all social distancing and hygiene tips and call the emergency phone numbers provided if need be. The Lagos State Government’s approach to battle COVID 19 has since become the model highly commended by the WHO and the international media like CNN.
“While we, as a party, commend and support the efforts of the Lagos State Government so far, we urge all and sundry to provide the needed cooperation at all times. We shall win this battle together.”
In another reaction, the governorship candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, also appealed to Nigerians and especially people of Lagos to exercise patience until the pandemic is contained.
According to him, “For a country with the kind of weak health system that we have, our only hope of beating the Covid-19 pandemic is to contain it before it gets out of hand. That is by social distancing. The most effective way to effect social distancing is to stay home.
“Evidence shows that most persons who have tested positive have been infected by people who do not even know they have the virus. There is, however, a reality that we do not have structured ways of identifying and locating the vulnerable in our society. This makes it difficult to assist during such periods as we presently are.”
Warning against the danger of not handling the lockdown properly, Agbaje said, “If we handle the lockdown properly then we should be out of the woods quickly. If not, then we are in for a long ride. I’m afraid we do not really have an alternative to the lockdown. We just must ameliorate the sufferings of our vulnerable.”
Lagos chapter of PDP said it was in agreement that if physical contacts are eliminated or greatly minimized COVID-19 would stop. However, the party said it was unfortunate the lockdown style the ruling party adopted was copied from Europe, where they have a better welfare system for citizens and residents.
Spokesman of the party, Mr. Taofik Gani, flayed the state government for adopting a propagandist approach to the so-called efforts to ameliorate citizens’ pains in the face of lockdown.
According to PDP, “The relief materials claimed to be going to homes and or the vulnerable are all false. Seriously hyped. Sanwo-Olu cannot feign any ignorance of this. Barrage of videos, audios, pictures abound exposing the inhumanity of a government to her citizens by the manner and quantity of reliefs going around the state. The so-called agricultural products and bread are so dehumanising that we have evidence of a loaf, 3kg rice, 3kg beans, dry pepper being distributed at the ration of a bag to 50 residents. It is so bad that donors have even raised quarrel with the state government.”
To cushion the effect of the stay-at-home directive on the vulnerable in the society, PDP said the governor should go beyond briefing like a doctor and advised that he “should leave much of such briefings to his health commissioner but should monitor the distribution of relief materials.”
The opposition party alleged that most of the relief materials were being distributed to members of the ruling party alone, saying, “Even the APC members have condemned the stuff in many areas. Less than 15 per cent of areas in the state are covered. We challenge the government to beat her chest and make public spending on so-called food distribution.”
PDP, however, commended all the private donors just as it appealed to the people to observe the necessary precautions to contain the disease from spreading.
But President, Women Arise & Centre For Change, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, commended Nigerians for obeying the lockdown directive at a crucial economic period like this when millions find it difficult to make ends meet.
“The conduct of the majority of Lagosians in adhering to the stay-at-home directive is commendable,” she said, “considering the level of compliance, as it is visible in most part of the state.”
She noted that despite the inconveniences associated with the directive, the ultimate goal is to ensure that there was a limit to the further spread of coronavirus, a pandemic she said if allowed to go out of control could overwhelm the country, as it does not have the capacity to tackle it.
According to her, “I will advise citizens to continue in abiding by the measure, while asking the government to urgently improve on its palliative measure, especially for our people in the informal sector. There is a limit to how long people can be kept indoors without food and other means of livelihood. This may bring about negative reactions, which will end up defeating the whole essence of the lockdown.”
Yet another governorship hopeful in Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Gbadamosi, who contested the last gubernatorial race in the state under the platform of Action Democratic Party (ADP) before defecting to PDP said, “I would enjoin citizens of Lagos to please be a little more patient, for all of our sakes. Let us endure as much as we can for the 14-day lockdown period.
“However, the government, on the other hand, must be sensitive and responsive to the needs of the most vulnerable. They cannot be ignorant of the fact people are hungry and unable to work to earn their daily bread. If there is any milk of human kindness in the hearts of those running Lagos State, now is the time to show it.
“I’m not talking about showy, partisan gestures that barely scratch the surface of the people’s needs, but responsible and sustained action in form of sufficient food aid, distributed door-to-door, exactly as Land Use Charge bills are distributed efficiently throughout Lagos State.”
He urged the government to leverage on the goodwill of the Organised Private Sector (OPS) for donations of food and other essential items, saying, “Empty warehouses can also be donated to be used as distribution centres for this effort, as well as heavy and light goods vehicles, using LSNC, LASTMA and LGA staff for efficient distribution of food, politically branded or not.”
A technocrat and former waste management expert, Mr. Ola Oresanya, said the intent of the stay-at-home directive was in order “but it has to be matched with adequate preparedness for social and economic consequences, especially on the economically vulnerable group.”
He said the pandemic threat has a greater impact on the privileged class, which has more to lose when faced with the alternatives.
“Government needs to be more efficient with the distribution strategy of the economic incentives to the vulnerable group to induce compliance and preserve the desire of the government,” Oresanya advised. “Hunger will never allow an average man to have the right perception of risk. We should lower our expectation for rational reasoning from the predominant group that is already economically deprived.”
A former Minister of Sports and Special Duties, Prof. Taoheed Adedoja, urged Nigerians to pray for all persons that have tested positive for the virus. Adedoja in a quick recovery message to the Governor of Oyo State, Mr. Seyi Makinde, who recently tested positive to the virus, said it was imperative of Nigerians to rally round and support the efforts of the various governments on the various measures, including the stay-at-home order over the coronavirus outbreak. He stated the need to also consider the most vulnerable in society, especially persons with disabilities.