Nigeria’s Covid -19: The Doubts are Growing with Seeds Sown by Government

Lagos state government says it has spent N 800 million on 16,000 tests so far. Nobody believes them. It also claims that it costs “between N40,000 – N50,000” to conduct one test; still no one thinks that is true. Sadiya Farooq, minister for disaster ,is feeding school kids from their parents’ homes with N679 million daily- N13 billion monthly. Nigerians think she is lying.

As for the virus proper? Well, let’s see. As of the morning of Friday,the figures stand at a tidy 7,.016. During the lock-down, the numbers were down to under 1000 cases. These are rising daily after the government announced “a relaxation in the lock-down protocol” .Nigerians who hurt from the shattering economic backlashes of the lock-down say that the numbers are made up, arbitrarily allocated to justify more lock-downs and steal money.

People jeeringly term the statistics as “Baba Ijebu” numbers (so named after a popular gambling outfit). Others call it “live scores” and go as far as running soccer-type commentaries on Twitter. And #Covidscam trends every now and then.

Why do Nigerians,a normally credulous and naive people,believe that Covid-19 is a scam? One that’s meant to disrupt their lives and take away their livelihoods? Why is the public convinced,more than previously,that the government is their enemy?

I think the answer is mainly found in the government’s handling of the pandemic beginning from when it was first  reported in China up to its shoddy and secretive handling of resources and information.

Before the first case hit Nigeria, the government boasted that it was ready . It soon became obvious that It lacked both the technical and financial architecture to carry out a lock-down. Its hospitals are very sordid affairs.

Reports are also rife about how public funds are plundered by government as led by Zainab Ahmed,Finance minister. The government has also taken $3.4 billion loan from the IMF after pledging to inflict more pains on citizens. The money is, ostensibly,to “cushion the impact of the pandemic” but Nigerians know from experience that it will go into private hands.

Without  an effective government, the Covid-19 Taskforce acts as a mini dictatorship. It often gives conflicting reports about how money was spent and mix up cases. It also warns “discharged” patients to refrain from telling the public what medication they were on.

The committee,too ,has so far been unable to get governors of Kogi and Cross Rivers to agree to tests . And people wonder why there are no Covid-related deaths in those places.After all, isn’t Coronavirus a “deadly pandemic without a cure”?
When the Taskforce reels out the numbers daily, it is in 3 slices: Namely, new cases, discharged cases and deaths ! Without a known drugs, how are they treated and discharged? And with what ,to boot? Nigerians ask.

Raymond Dokpesi who owns an influential media business came out of treatment and asked if “Covid-19 is synonymous with malaria”? I hear that he has been leaned on to retract  that query but he merely issued a Delphi memo to his staff. What’s more, Nigerians believe Mr Dokpesi more than they do the government .

Oh, and there  are videos in vast profusion of look like  “Isolation centers ” where young men and woman dance and frolic. Some say they’ve been paid to act as patients. No one is able to verify all this though but the people believe them. And the government is unable to counter this by showing what might be real “Isolation centers”.

And oh, there is still the story of 15 “Chinese medical experts” who were in Nigeria by special arrangements to help fight the disease.  Now, the government doesn’t want people to ask about or know their whereabouts. Its answers are ridiculous. They can’t return to China because of the ban on air travel.Never forget that the “experts ” came into Nigeria by an Air Peace plane when a travel ban was in full effect.

Finally, precisely for economic reasons,the government has lost the credibility contest with the people. Now,the committee hopes to appeal to traditional rulers to help preach the message. That will not work because people want to go back to their normal lives – Covid-19 be damned!

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