By Ebunoluwa Sessou
Nigerians have continued to lament over the ‘Stay at Home’, the order of the Federal Government as, for them, there are quite a number of issues that were left unattended before the restriction order was initiated.
“What should concern us are the palliatives to be given out to Nigerians before locking down everywhere, some Nigerians are salary earners, some are businessmen, women, traders who survive on daily earnings, how do they survive the two weeks lockdown?”
Narrating her ordeal to WO, a-39-year old, Modina Ogundele lamented that she had to go out and buy foodstuffs for her household. According to her, “Prices of consumables and other goods, including transport fares have skyrocketed. Most traders have increased the prices of their goods. Most marketers have increased the prices of their goods.
Another respondent, Mrs. Musa told WO that the marketers increased the prices of their goods claiming that some markets have been shut down. The mother of two said she was appealing to the federal government to help address the issue of hike in the prices of food items.
“I think the government should regulate the prices of all food items because a lot of people are using the opportunity to extort poor masses.
“Why should people just increase prices of raw food that they had in their shops before, not that they bought new ones,” she asked.
Coronavirus pandemic has affected many businesses and all industries are suffering. Agriculture, education, entertainment, religion, housing, transportation, energy to mention a few are suffering already.
The upsurge in the number of persons visiting banks, pharmacies, superstores and markets followed the directive by the government that all open markets and stores should be closed except for sellers of food and medicines.
“We are more concerned about life”- BRT boss
Mr. Fola Tinubu, Managing Director of Primero Transport Services Limited in a chat with WO, said that the negative impact on the economy and transportation industry in particular, cannot be quantified. “We are on the front line because of the exigency embedded in the business. But the truth is that the business has crashed because the patronage has reduced. Most passengers are now observing the “Stay at Home” order by government.
“If the country totally shuts down, we cannot tell how long it will be but we should be concerned about lives, thereafter we can talk about getting our economy on track. We can replace money but we cannot replace life and at this critical time, we should not talk about money but how to save lives. That is the focus of my organization and I believe, the same should be on everybody’s mind”, he said.
Nothing in our storage facilities – Food Expert
In his part, Prince Wale Oyekoya, an Agriculturist and food expert and former Chairman Agriculture, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, also lamented that, the situation in the country is pitiable.
“Unfortunately in Nigeria, there is nothing in our storage facility. I have been advocating for adequate storage facility and value chain, these are something we should have done. We are supposed to have long chain plan of our produce but we do not even have adequate value chain.
“In Nigeria, we just produce and consume and this is really affecting us but by and large, farmers need to remain safe and I will also urge the medical personnel to remain safe because they are in parallel with farmers who are saddled with the responsibility of supplying the people with food especially at this critical period and a time people have been ordered by government to stay at home.
“This is the best time to embark on online business. We have been advocating this for a while. This is just a method of engaging a third party delivery service while farmers continue their business on the farm. With what ravaging the entire World, we cannot pay lip service to food especially in Nigeria where food is essential. That is why other countries are opening their food reserve.
Another stakeholder, Group Executive Chairman of Bode Adediji Partnership, Mr. Bode Adediji, disclosed that real estate has been suffering from comparative lockdown in the past three years, adding that, with this development, the real estate and housing sectors may enter into an unprecedented and prolonged depression. Consequently, unemployment will soar and crime rates may explode.
“Women and children of our population may be worse off even though we cannot deny that prior to this pandemic, they have never been immune to or protected from the consequences of Nigeria’s economic, social and governance crisis since they have always been a subject of pronounced marginalization, abuse and outright neglect.
“Another set of people we cannot ignore are the disabled, the elderly and the helpless in our country. Their plight as a result of this pandemic and economic strangulation may be more than pathetic”, he said.
Cleanliness next to Godliness
On her part, Pastor Mabel Sowoolu, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN Women leader, said,
“It is obvious that COVID-19 is taking its toll on the religious aspect. And it is not farfetched. It is not easy to stay at home. It is really very difficult. For Christians and other believers, we know there is God. We know things will change and with faith, we will overcome it.
“We should not forget that we should be close to God and it is not only praying. We should pray well and ensure that we do not deprive people of their right. My advice to mothers is for them to take charge of their homes. They should know that cleanliness leads to godliness. If we clean our environment, educate our children to wash their hands very well, then, we will overcome”, she said.
Crisis in the home
For women whose husbands are jobless, Oyekoya hinted, “there will be serious crisis in the homes. Some parents are feeling the negative impact. This is where government’s intervention is needed like other countries. There will be crisis with the stay at home order without providing food or relief materials for Nigerians to survive. Government should be concerned about people’s welfare. Nobody will be happy to stay indoors when there is no food. Some workers’ salaries have not been paid for the past two months. How can they cope and foods are getting too expensive. Government needs to come up with good welfare package for Nigerians.
Hike in prices of goods
On hike in prices of foodstuffs, Oyekoya said, “Government has not been proactive in terms of price control. “People are taking advantage of the system. And the fact is that demand is higher than supply, which is why there is hike in price of foodstuff. If there is healthy competition, nobody will hoard any food. If grants can get to the real farmers, prices of food will not be hiked.
Many people are indoors and it is survival of the fittest. This is an emergency. It is not that the cost of production is really jacked up, so, why should prices of foodstuff go up which an average Nigerian cannot afford. Even the consumer protection organizations need to step into price control.
Coronavirus must die – Tinubu
Tinubu called for team work to fight against the deadly virus. “This time, it is needful that we all come together and work as a team to defeat this virus. An individual or a country cannot defeat it. We must learn from each other and most importantly in Nigeria, we have to follow all instructions given to us by the government. It is in our best interest.
From our end, we are doing a lot. Firstly, we have taken it as a priority to be fumigating our buses everyday to disinfect against any virus. We have started a campaign that “Coronavirus Must Die,” we have been educating our passengers on how to stay safe. We have partnered with some Nigerians on campaign against the pandemic. We have distributed some face masks, hand sanitizers and have embarked on radio advertorial as awareness mechanisms to disseminate information to people. We have also volunteered our buses in case Lagos state goes on total lock down, to convey medical personnel to various centres and take them back to their various homes.
“No life can be replaced if it is lost. Our focus is how to fight the virus and then solve the financial issues thereafter. It is only when you are alive, you can spend money. Although, at the moment, we are losing lots of money but the most important option is how to save lives. And once the storm is over, we will all be happy together and then the economy will soar again. Right now, we should all focus our energy on how to save lives”, he continued.
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Asked if he is joining force with some philanthropists to provide food or give relief materials to Nigerians while they observe the “Stay at Home”, as commanded by government, he assured, that he will do everything within his power with the collaboration of some friends to assist Nigerians.
Tinubu further explained that it is government’s responsibility to alleviate Nigeria’s problems. “We will do our best but I wish to note that it is government’s responsibility to provide relief materials for Nigerians. I am hoping that the federal government will step up the game and put up a scheme that will help alleviate people’s problem. And until that is done, there is limit to what an individual Nigerian can do. Government’s priority is to make sure Nigerians do not suffer”.
Give grants to farmers – Oyekoya
According to Oyekoya, “Government and other organizations should promote the online business of selling foodstuffs or we can develop what we call farm gate sales. We cannot go to market now because of social distancing, but through the farm gate sales, you will not have contact with the consumer. Consumers can get their food through the farm gate at a cheaper rate. It just needs a third party delivery service. Maybe, this will teach our government that food production and value chain is very important. If we had storage facility, then we will not be having this problem. We do not know how long, the restriction will be. Farmers still need to be encouraged perhaps to give them some grants. As we are talking, some farms are folding up because there is no way they can take their product to the market”.
Declare a war period agenda – Adediji
For Adediji, “Government must deploy an urgent revolutionary agenda to help Nigeria women and children as well as the disabled. Government cannot ignore the fact that breadwinners are now jobless and helpless. In totality, the Nigerian government must declare a war period agenda to fight this invisible enemy through the creation and revamping some policies to forestall re-occurence.
On Grants, Oyekoya further explained, “Another unfortunate aspect is that these monies are not getting to the real farmers. They are just giving it to the political farmers or portfolio farmers. If real farmers are getting these grants, they do not have any reason not to improve on their products”, he concluded.
Stimulus packages not getting to the people, says NGO
Founder, Olise Omolu Foundation, Mr. Sunday Omolu has called both Federal and states governments to address the issue of stimulus package to cushion the effect of lock down order on Nigerians.
He observed that as things now stand, the palliatives package might not serve its purpose, saying majority of the people who were supposed to benefit from the exercise have not and the very few that have had access to the items complain that it was nothing to write home about.
According to him, “Two things might have given rise to this fiasco. It’s either the items were not generously provided by the authorities or those assigned to do the distribution did not acquaint themselves creditably. If it is the latter, then it is indeed a national tragedy as it is fast becoming our national ethos.
“Take the way relief materials meant for the Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps are routinely abused and you will get the point I am making here. We are not generous in this country and when we are entrusted with the responsibility of dispensing what governments have made available to people in distress, we make sure that the goodies do not get to the people they are meant for.
“We are callous, greedy and wicked that is why the IDP camps are suffering deprivations today. Let those in the corridors of power for once be more humane and transparent in the way they handle emergencies when compensating the people is involved. Let them show some sense of patriotism.
“There is no fellow feeling otherwise why should a government official fail to deliver relief materials to the people that they are meant for.
“It is roundly evil to deny the masses the palliatives meant to ameliorate the hardship they are facing under this lockdown. Life is right now on hold. This is when the role of government is called for more than ever.
“Government officials that are responsible for ensuring that the exercise is successfully executed should do so painstakingly and monitor the distribution of the Covid-19 palliatives. “Let the authorities not claim to have provided succour where in reality suffering is thriving and perhaps not through their fault but that of their agents. Need I add the beautiful words of Henry Clay who wrote that government is a trust, and the officers of the government are trustees; and both the trust and the trustees are created for the benefit of the people”, he noted.
He applauded Governor Sanwo-Olu of Lagos state who is doing everything within his power to address the situation. “The governor of Lagos state has lived up to expectations during the ongoing emergency. These are the times we know great leaders”, he said.
He however urged both federal and the 35 states governors to ensure that the distribution of the palliatives is closely monitored by trusted aids. “That is the only way your very good intentions will percolate to the masses you love very dearly”, he said.