When President Muhammadu on Sunday March 30, 2020 finally acceded to millions of Nigerians’ demand (online/offline) to have him address them on live TV on his administration’s preparedness on the novel coronavirus [COVID-19] pandemic, many Nigerians were of the opinion that most of the ‘in-view’ incentives which he later rolled out in his speech would have been implemented before locking down Lagos, Ogun and the seat of power, Abuja.
Without adequate time to prepare and with most people still lamenting their loss since the pandemic broke out, residents of these two states and Abuja were asked to stay indoors for two weeks while the government rolls out its palliative measures later.
Confusion in Lagos over government’s earlier directive
When the Lagos State Government earlier proposed a partial lock down of the state to contain the spread and also fumigate the entire state against the novel coronavirus [COVID-19] disease, little did Lagosians know that the partial ‘sit-at-home’ order will later run in full force especially with the federal government’s ‘order from above’.
While the Lagos State Government was still trying to explain that the state was not in full lockdown and that the chemicals to be used for the fumigation are not poisonous, President Muhammadu Buhari’s broadcast passed a different message.
According to the president who had earlier been dragged by Nigerians for his ‘expensive silence’ on the COVID-19 development, the imposement of a two-week curfew from 11PM on Monday night in high risk states as Lagos, Ogun and FCT will help government contain the spread and also trace people who are in contacts with confirmed cases.
“I am directing the cessation of all movements in Lagos and the FCT for an initial period of 14 days with effect from 11pm on Monday, 30th March 2020. This restriction will also apply to Ogun State due to its close proximity to Lagos and the high traffic between the two States.
“All citizens in these areas are to stay in their homes. Travel to or from other states should be postponed. All businesses and offices within these locations should be fully closed during this period. The Governors of Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Minister of the FCT have been notified. Furthermore, heads of security and intelligence agencies have also been briefed.
“We will use this containment period to identify, trace and isolate all individuals that have come into contact with confirmed cases. We will ensure the treatment of confirmed cases while restricting further spread to other States,” Buhari said in the much anticipated nationwide broadcast on Sunday.
Ogun postpones lockdown
Meanwhile, Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun has postponed the presidential directive to lock the state from 11PM Monday to Friday (today).
The governor, who disclosed this on Monday in a broadcast said he consulted with the president on the need to extend the lockdown directive in the overall interest of the people of the state.
According to him, the president graciously agreed to the request, and therefore urged the people of the state to remain calm and stock up food items ahead of time.
The governor also said the state had procured 20 ventilators for use at the isolation centres.
Nigerians lament lockdown with no electricity
Now in its day four, Nigerians especially those in Lagos and Abuja are beginning to complain of the epileptic power supply even as they are confined to their houses.
“The least thing any serious government can do should have been to improve on its electricity distribution. How do you keep people at home without providing electricity especially in this harsh weather? How do they access daily info on this virus? This is nothing short of being trapped, we are literally locked down in darkness while they enjoy 24 hours electricity in their various houses. If you really want people to stay indoors, you should make the atmosphere conducive for them to do so. This country is just a joke. When you know you are not ready, why not just allow the states manage their crisis as it unfolds in their domain? Do you believe I even had to fuel my generator to listen to the president on that Sunday evening? Will Nigeria ever prepare for anything? We had enough warnings o, but our leaders as usually took it for granted thinking the disease was going to start with the poor and even if it reaches them, they’ll quickly dash abroad as they usually do, but look at God in action, I pray they learn their lessons when all of this is over, a visibly angry Nigerian share his thoughts with TNG.
Another Nigerian shares his lockdown experience: “As much as we are trying to obey the presidential ‘stay-at-home’ directive to contain the spread of this disease, however I must say the atmosphere is not conducive. Just come to my street and see things for yourself. Nearly all the houses are on generators 24 hours of the day. The last time we had any semblance of public electricity was in February. We have had to power our gen for every single day since then. Nigeria is not ready for a lock down. The heat is also not helping matter. But we won’t have needed to worry about the heat if our government gives us constant electricity.
Nigerians likely to develop more health problems staying indoors without light – Experts
While the government is doing everything possible to contain the spread of the virus amongst Nigerians by declaring a lockdown in the most vulnerable states, however, medical experts say Nigerians might contact other strange illnesses if they are continually locked down in darkness.
A Lagos based medical doctor, Dickson Fasasi said people need to stay in well ventilated places to suppress the effect of the global warming that is currently sweeping across the world.
In his words: “The atmosphere these days is becoming increasingly hot and unbearable. The development which has caused profuse perspiration and does not seem to have reprieve even at nights is the effect of global warming currently sweeping across the globe.
This climate change is becoming an emerging public health concerns. The high temperature coupled with humidity has led to mortality and morbidity where it continues through the night. The body becomes exhausted and overwhelmed and may react to this situation mildly or severely from minor symptoms like psychological stress, heat rash, heat cramps, chicken pox to extreme cases like heat syncope, exhaustion, meningitis, fainting and strokes which may lead to neurological damage and even death.
This period of heightened temperature with adverse bodily effects is what is referred to as heat wave. With increase in the body’s temperature, central nervous and circulatory systems are impacted. The most vulnerable to heat waves are children, elderly, sedentary urban dwellers who do not have access to air conditioners and those whose apartments do not have windows that allow for ventilation of air. Others are obese and people with certain medical conditions, even diuretic drugs for treatment of high blood pressure and medications for mental health conditions have been found to be susceptible to heat and can worsen the condition of the patients.
Where electricity is not available especially at night hours, the tendency would be to keep both doors and windows ajar. This could be an open invitation to dangerous reptiles and men of the underworld, so care must be taken so that one does not jump from fry pan to fire.
Air conditioners have been found to be effective in cooling room temperature but fans actually aggravate such situations because of the hot air they blow.”
He noted further that to ensure that Nigerians don’t contract another disease while running from one, the federal government must at least ensure that power is stable especially at night when the option to move around can’t be explored.
He also advised Nigerians on the need to observe daily healthy lifestyle and eat good food particularly fruits to boost their immune against the novel coronavirus [COVID-19] and any other illnesses that might surface during the compulsory lockdown that is more likely to extend than the initial two weeks.
“It is advisable to stay under shades of trees, bathe regularly and enough water should be taken in order to prevent dehydration during this period. Also, virtually all fruits are good for the body in times like this, but fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumber, leafy greens, berries, coconut water, water melon are among the best, even spicy pepper is recommended because it can stimulate heat receptors in the mouth that enhances circulation which produces sweat that cools down the body. Also, frequent checks of the body’s blood pressure are recommended. Sun screen and sun lotion with solar protection can be of help to the eyes and the body respectively.
Alcoholic drinks and beverages such as spirits, coffee, caffeinated drinks, sodas and also smoking of tobacco are more dangerous to the body during this period,” the doctor explained.
High cost of food items and daily products
A brief monitoring by TNG of street traders and shops in Lagos revealed that prices of food items such as Rice, Beans, Yam, Garri, Palm and groundnut oil have doubled with some almost tripling.
One of the sellers who cringed anonymity said the high cost of the items wasn’t entirely their fault. “People think we are responsible for the hike in prices but we are not. It is what we buy that we will sell. Now that there is curfew, we don’t easily get vehicles to bring the items for us. If we get one, they will charge triple the usual amount. Sometimes, we also bribe these security officials to allow our vehicles to pass. All these extra charges amount to the hike in the prices. We can’t deliberately hike food prices when there is no reason to do so.
However, a female residential buyer has a different opinion. “These people are wicked. When things go wrong in this country, we are quick to call Buhari but is it Buhari that said they should hike prices for goods that are already in their shops before the curfew commenced? Majority of them are even afraid to step close to the bus stop, yet they lie that they buy fresh supplies at exorbitant prices. This country can’t move forward if we keep oppressing ourselves. Nobody is saying you can’t make extra gain but you have to be realistic and reasonable in doing it,” she said.
Harassment by security agencies
Before President Muhammadu Buhari imposed the curfew, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in his wisdom had earlier instructed the Lagos State Police Task Force to be friendly in enforcing the ‘stay-at-home’ order.
However, few days into the curfew, Nigerians are beginning to share different brutality stories from their encounter with the security agencies.
“I remember the president exempted general health workers in his curfew speech. I am a pharmacist. I run a pharmaceutical shop and also work in a general hospital. The security agencies have turned me back home on two occasions since this curfew started despite my open identification. They even malhandled me on one occasion. Its funny how these guys abuse any small power entrusted to them,” a pharmacist shared his experience with TNG via telephone interview.
TNG observed that the social media has also been awashed with pictures and videos of security agencies brutalising people. Especially those legitimately empowered to move around.
Just yesterday (Thursday), a soldier in Warri, Delta State allegedly shot a civilian to death outside his house. The tension from the killing is yet to abate as aggrieved youths have also bounced on some soldiers on the lockdown duty. The State Government has however called for calm and ordered immediate investigation into the killing.