Covid-19 Vs. Hunger Virus: FGN Copy and Paste Policy doing more Harm than Good
All parts of Nigeria have been in either partial or total lockdown in the last 3 months. This is a measure for curtailing the spread of the Coronavirus. Restrictions of movements are essentially to confine people to places and stop person to person transmission. But given the nature of our housing for the generality of the masses and peasant and subsistence economy, holding citizens in the houses is not the best of policies in addressing the pandemic.
View pictures in App save up to 80% data. View pictures in App save up to 80% data. View pictures in App save up to 80% data. Compared to lockdowns in Europe, the inappropriateness of our adoption of the same policy in the exact same format begins to show with very telling implications. To begin with, like Professor Chukwuma Soludo pointed out while arguing that Nigeria and indeed Africa cannot afford lockdowns, Americans and Europeans were literally paid to stay home. Money and materials were provided by their governments to the citizens, most of whom are employed and receiving payments from their organizations while reluctantly observing the lockdown.
In Nigeria, a country where its bureau of statistics gave the figure of citizens living in absolute poverty of less than one dollar a day as about 100m, the citizens are forced to stay home with no meaningful provisions. Out of over 100m Nigerians who survive based on daily hassles, less than 4 m got a paltry 20 k from the federal government (state governments, politicians, NGOs, and wealthy Nigerians helped a great deal though but it was still a far cry).
The COVID-19 poor policies in Nigeria are many. In the FCT, and other parts of the country, churches and mosques have been reopened while markets and farms remained closed; whereas it should be the reverse. It is businesses that ought to open before churches and mosques. The reason is simple: religious activities can go on in private while most businesses cannot. But being a highly religious nation yet not so spiritual, reopening worship centres became paramount to the policy drivers and COVID-19 handlers in Nigeria.
Food stuff markets open twice or thrice a week in Abuja only for 6 hours for people to refill but nobody asks how many Nigerians are able to do so since the majority of them have had their livelihoods halted in the last 3 months. Apart from poor Nigerians already finding life tough, months ahead looks indeed bleak. The economic team headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo just predicted over 39m job losses before December 2020.
Further evidence that lockdown is not inevitable is shown in several countries that did not lockdown and yet, recorded less Corona incidences than many countries that are observing lockdown. They followed alternative routes and got their good results while keeping their economies running, proving the point that the need for lockdown is not absolute.
Let's take a closer look at our conflicted and convoluted case. Nigerian masses live in houses which make lockdown a bad case. It is true that poor transportation means more body contacts, but the number of passengers can take care of this aspect considerably well. As long as there are no physical contacts and the vehicles are ventilated, contacting the virus while commuting is minimal. It is no more the chances of contracting it in the clustered environments where Nigerian masses live and forced to use common facilities such as toilets, bathrooms and so on. The housing problem seems to be getting worse. It is estimated that Nigeria has a deficit of 17 million houses as of August 2012 and requires 700,000 houses annually compared to less than 100,000 currently being constructed (NBS). This condition has forced the majority of Nigerians to live in environments and buildings where lockdown cannot be logically observed.
It is also important to note that work can go on with measures and strict enforcements in place: compel the workers to observe social distancing, have their temperatures taken on arrival and wear proper masks in work places and sanitizers kept handy and running water in all offices before they can operate.
Farming, which was also affected by the COVID-19 protocols, is brought into the mix also in error. Nigerian farmers farm in families and gangs with chances of physical contacts with outsiders lower than staying in clustered compounds doing nothing. Even distributions of produce, going on at the moment, have greater risk of physical contacts.
Driving everybody into one form of farming or another would have yielded both new vocations for many and bountiful harvest for the nation. But with the opportunity missed, the nation will have to borrow more money for more food imports whereas the lockdown would have been converted to food sufficiency with possible export of surpluses.
For the avoidance of doubt, here are countries that didn't lock down. South Korea: often described as a country with some of the world’s most comprehensive protective measures in place, South Korea is one of the Asian countries experiencing the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic but has responded with a string of several measures that do not include shutting down the economy.
Sweden has also refused to join the rest of its European neighbours in lockdown, instead focusing on social distancing, mask wearing, and personal hygiene and taking personal responsibility. Nicaragua: according to available data, there are only 25 confirmed cases, 7 people have recovered and eight Nicaraguans have officially died of the COVID-19 disease. Zanzibar: the Tanzanian semi-autonomous island Zanzibar ruled out a complete lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic citing the high financial costs of supporting the poorer segments of its population.
What's more, a virus whose recovery rate is up to 90% does not require a total lockdown. While air travel may be justifiably closed, interstate travel is very possible and that will reopen that vital component of the economy. With the vehicles ventilated and social distancing fairly maintained, interstate travel is possible. To be sure, those who need to travel can also undergo the test and travel with their certificates. In many countries, you cannot even shop without COVID-19 free certificate.
It is important to also stress that interstate travels are going on now underground without any precautions at all, worsening the spread. Many who tested positive in many States were known to have brought it in with them. This could have been avoided if they were made to test before embarking on their fatal journeys rather than this “black-market” approach.
Bottom-line is: since community transmission cannot be stopped due to the nature of houses where the bulk of the Nigerian masses live; since work and businesses can go on and industries reopened with measures in place, lockdown in Nigeria is not inevitable. What lockdown could achieve could have been achieved with strict enforcement of physical distancing, face mask wearing, constant hand washing and cleaning with hand sanitizers as proved by countries that did not lockdown. Opening worship centres while locking down the markets, offices, farms and industries is not a well thought through policy.
The inability to factor in the looming hunger virus, which will be more devastating than Coronavirus, is a fatal and gross error judgment. Without any basic Medicare system in Nigeria, it has been all damage control and chaotic policy measures. By the time the hunger virus fully kicks in, it will be double jeopardy...all piling up for the Nigerian masses with their government standing aloof and hopeless as usual.