By rote and without recourse to local peculiarities, Nigeria’s government slammed a lockdown on Lagos,Ogun and Abuja on March 30. The immediate impact was hunger and mass violence. After a month, the measures became more acute as it “banned inter -state travel” (a very unwise way to kill businesses ) and imposed a nightly curfew that begins as early as 8pm( Another smart way to kill the service industry).
After nearly 60 days of the blunders, Nigeria is no safer from Coronavirus than before the lockdown. As a matter of fact,infection rates have gone up very sharply according to data provided nightly by NCDC, the agency in partly in charge.
Before the lockdown, the figures were well under 500 but as we write this, it has reached 8,339 and the taskforce predicts that this should go higher in the coming weeks and months.
There are tellingly more questions than there are answers.
A)What was the point of the lockdown? Government and those who benefit from it will rush to say that the lockdowns were necessary to “combat the spread of the virus”. That may be so but the nature of the measures, with days of waivers for “essential services ” made and makes a total mockery of the while show.
Let’s take an example :
Notionally, there is a ban on “inter-state movement in Nigeria but it takes about N10000 to get from Lagos( epicentre of the virus in Nigeria )to Benin city, a journey of about 300 kilometres. Soldiers and other allied military people ferry people across Nigeria as side businesses. In other words, despite the ban, people still travel.
Governments and people of the South East are losing sleep as they cry that their land is flooded by economic and criminal refugees fleeing the hunger and pains in the North. They come in crates of trailer-lorries sadined with cattle.
People are not really lockdown, businesses are.
B)Why are the cases rising ? “Nigeria on Tuesday ,May 26, recorded 276 new cases of the COVID-19, bringing the total active cases to 8344.
And “Nigeria on Wednesday recorded 389 new cases of the novel coronavirus, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on its official twitter handle, said that as of May 27, fatalities recorded in Nigeria have reached 254 bringing the number to 8,633.” Vanguard, a newspaper reports.
One of the government responses is that the people violated the terms of the waivers : poor social distancing, faces free of masks ,etc. They also say that they now do more test( less than 50,000) .They also cite community transmission.
But the people disagree with these. They mostly agree that the figures are made up. They point to Kogi and Cross Rivers, two states without the virus where there are neither tests nor deaths.
The Presidential Taskforce, PTF, headed by the nation’s top bureaucrat,Boss Mustafa,acts as the only effective government ,occasionally dropping the president’sname for effects.
The nation waits anxiously for the end of this week when they expect a presidential broadcast which will tell them to go back to life. But it will not happen: For some reason, the government is at peace with the current arrangement even though it means hunger, deaths,loss of businesses and a litany of related woes for its luckless citizens.
I also think that the government is too weak to think independently of the W.H.O. It lacks the grits and nationalism of Tanzania and Madagascar. For another thing, mismanaging the lockdown and disrupting everything halt citizens from prying into the affairs of the strange presidency whose vice president and president are never seen or heard.
And there is also the strong rumours that a few government officials and their handlers are making vast fortunes from the lockdown.
Regular nations are already going back to normal life but Nigeria, being a convolution, will push this to a more bitter disaster.