WE are on the same page with President Muhammadu Buhari who, in a recent tweet, warned that the Nigerian economy is too fragile to contemplate another lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. The president had sent the tweet on October 29, 2020.
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 led by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, regularly warns of the possibility of another lockdown because of the general carefree attitude of Nigerians to the core protocols required to contain the pandemic.
This call for caution was also recently emphasised by the Lagos State Commissioner of Health, Dr. Akin Abayomi.
Abayomi, a frontline leader of the fight against the pandemic, warned in a statement: “The continuous flagrant disregard of safety guidelines by citizens heralds danger and may lead to a second wave of infections in Lagos”, adding that “a resurgence of cases in Lagos may lead to the reversal of the strategically-calculated measures put in place by government to open up the economy”.
We acknowledge the importance of these warnings by the health authorities and scientific experts. Even though Nigeria and most of Africa have been fortunate enough to escape the benumbing infection rates and second waves that have challenged the more advanced continents of America, Europe and Asia, our people must be constantly kept aware that the pandemic is still very much with us.
However, the issue of another possible lockdown does not arise. Wisdom dictates that the delicate balance between fighting the virus and keeping the economy going to avoid the “hunger virus” is maintained.
In our own case, the scale has since tipped against the economy, and the hunger virus is ravaging the populace.
The Nigerian chapter of the International Food Policy Research Institute, IFPRI, says that the six-week lockdown between April and May this year zapped $16bn loss to our GDP.
The modest efforts being made by government to steer the economy from imminent recession was thwarted by the three-week #EndSARS protests and subsequent burning and looting of private and public property by hoodlums.
The National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, has just announced that Nigeria has plunged into another recession within five years.
The skyrocketing of inflation rate (especially food inflation) and price increases in power and petroleum products have left the populace reeling and gasping for survival.
We must gather and focus all efforts to economic recovery and speedy exit of the recession.
Apart from the fact that we now understand the coronavirus pandemic much better and can live with it, there are also several vaccines waiting to be deployed worldwide.
Adherence to COVID-19 protocols should become second nature to everyone even after the pandemic. It is a sure way of keeping infections at bay.
The sensitisation must continue.