By Suleiman Umaru
Nigerians from all walks of life had warned that the lock down of the economy would be easier to handle to in order to contain the spread of the Wuhan Town in Hebei Province of the Asian country of China emerged Coronavirus, popular , COVID 19, than reopening it up again for now.
Indeed Lagos and Federal ,civil servants, traders and business leaders appear confused over President Muhammadu Buhari, planned phased easing of the lockdown in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve center, descibed as the epicenter of the disease, Ogun and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, starting from Monday, May 4, 2020.
Last Tuesday, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos state, had given an insight of the phased easing of the lock down. He had said that ‘’Eateries and restaurants would open on Monday, May 4, 2020, but could only provide take out service as they would not be allowed to Seat Customers’’. He had said that markets would be allowed to operate on designated days in the south west City.
He may have given the traders and businessmen a cause to be happy when he said Money Deposit Banks, MDB, and government offices would also be opened for business but could only accommodate 60 percent of their workforce while others would work from home.
The government may have bowed to pressure to begin a phased reopening of the economy as many Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, SMEs, were said to have cried out that they are going broke and that the lock down would essentially make their business Collapse.
He also spoke about resumption of intrastate Commercial buses. Although the Lagos state governor had not given the nod for the immediate restoration of Commercial buses on the road because of the strict conditions put in place for return of their services. ‘’All Commuters must wear Face Masks and gloves as they are expected to provide had washing equipment and thermometers,’’.
He had said that they could only carry 60 percent of their bus Seat capacity, an indication that a bus which has a 10 passenger Seat could only be allowed to carry 6 passengers for a trip. The governor made it clear that there would be no standing in buses any longer but that was how far he could go.
In spite of the fact that the May 4, date for buses to resume intra-state operations had not reached yet, the bus operators had forced themselves on the road, thus sending a signal to the state governor that they are not ready to abide by the rules.
The Value News went out on Friday, May 1, 2020, to observe what is happening along the Ikotun-Iyana Ipaja route of the Alomosho local government but found out that nothing had changed . The buses were still carrying their full load of passengers with conductors still standing with the increased fares.
They were said to have taken advantage of the state government’s laid down new rules on public transportation to hike fares, forcing Commuters to cry out. It was not surpring why Rose Ukachukwu, a trader, told the Magazine that she would watch the situation of things this week before stepping out from her home to the market.
Many had expected the Lagos state governor to also speak out when schools will reopen but he had kept his silence. He may have kept silent on the reopening of schools as agreement may not have been reached with the Presidential Task Force on COVID 19, headed by Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the government of the Federation on which Classes should resume, how many students would be allowed in and whether any security measure would ensure their safety.
The situation in Nigeria was not different from Italy, one of the European countries hardest hit by the COVID 19, and some other European countries. Take for instance , in Italy, thousands of Small business owners, who could no longer stand the lock down, were said to have complained loud thus, forcing them to give out the keys of their restaurants and Cafes to their City and District Mayors in protest.
In France, Teachers say the plan by the government to gradually reopen schools staring from May 11, 2020, have created a Climate of fears and Confusion amongst parents because of the rising deaths as a result of the disease. Even Spain, another European country hard hit by the scourge which had planned to relax some lock down rules this May, had been forced to retreat key steps due to public pressure. The government initially barred Children from going outside , but later allowed them to accompany their parents to go on errands.
But when the Opposition and Parents had protested the restriction on Children movements, the government was forced to allow them go on Walks otside. The Value News findings show that for the first time in the seven weeks of the lock down in the country, adults and Teenagers were allowed to go outside for exercise but at a great cost.
It was reported that the country experienced 164 deaths and 838 Confirmed infections between the Saturday, May 2, that people were allowed to go outside for exercise and Sunday, May 3, 2020. This may have informed why Pedro Sanchez, the country’s Prime Minister had asked the Parliament to extend the lock down in the country beyond May 10, 2020.
The Katsina state born Nigerian President has no option but to take a cue from Sanchez, the Spanish Prime Minister rather than risking the live of Nigerians. The lock down may have been relaxed by the President at the instance of the governors not because the government is winning the war against COVID 19 but because it cannot afford to meet the needs of the poor and vulnerable Nigerians for too long at home without a revolt.
The Opposition Political Parties believe that it is a clever way by the Buhari Administration to avoid taking responsibility for the death of a Coronavirus patient but shifting the responsibility to the family. ”The risk is still there and increasing daily”, an analyst said.
Even without the government drawing the curtain open for the phased relaxation of the lock down’to begin on May 4, 2020, Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General, Nigerian Center for Disease Control, NCDC, had tweeted that there had been overnight 220 new cases ( Saturday, May 2 and Sunday, May 3, 2020), of the disease, thus bringing the total number of infected persons in the country since the out- break of the disease to 2,388. Of the new infections, Lagos alone was said to have produced 62 persons while FCT , produced 52. The agency confirmed that so far 85 persons had died as a result of the disease .
One of the latest victims of the Coronavirus was said to be Adamu Suleiman, a member of the Nasarawa state House of Assembly. The death f the Lawmaker appear to have thrown the Assembly into total Confusion as there are Lawmakers who were said to have come into contact with him before his death.
This is where Abdullahi Sule, the state governor, and the House Speaker a may have to Collaborate with NCDC officials to fish out those Lawmakers and force them to go for the COVID 19 Test to avoid spreading it to others.
There are indications that Tafida Abubakar Ila II, the Emir of Rano, one of the newly carved out districts from Kano Emirate Council by Abdullahi Gandunje the state governor, may have died of the disease on Saturday, May 2, 2020. There have been speculations making the rounds that Kyari El-Kanemi, a First Class Chief and the Shehu of Bama, in Borno state, may have died of the disease last Tuesday.
Recall that Abba Kyari, a former Chief of Staff to the President had died of the dreaded disease some weeks after his return from Germany on official Assignment where he had discussions with SIEMENS officials on the nation’s power sector.
The President had described him as his ‘’dearest friend’’ but he was seen in political circles as the ” head of the Cabal in the Presidency”.