The recent decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to extend the lockdown in Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Federal Capital Territory FCT, Abuja by another 14 days as part of measures to check the spread of the dreaded COVID-19 virus in the country is no doubt a step in the right direction. This is given that the lockdown, which to a very large extent enhances social distancing, remains one of the most potent ways to curtail the spread of the virus, which is currently affecting many countries of the world. The lockdown also remains the most viable option towards halting the spread of the virus, especially among countries, which are deficient in terms of the provision of Personal Protective Equipment PPE as well as adequate and well –equipped isolation centres. The regimes of incentives and palliatives to enhance the wellbeing of the citizens and the economy during and after the virus are also a welcome development.

However, there is need for the Federal Government to urgently review its strategies and possibly rejig some of the committees set up to handle the pandemic.  

BUSINESS AND TRANSPORT believes strongly that there should have been representatives from the 36 states of the federation and the FCT in major committees set up by the Federal Government to combat the pandemic, especially the Presidential Committee on COVID-19 and National Committee set up by the Federal Ministry of Health with a view to promoting synergy and holistic approach towards curtailing the spread of the pandemic. This is also given the federal nature of the Nigerian political system with the states and local government being closer to the people at the grassroot.

Source: NCDC

This probably accounts for why some state governments are ambivalent, while many of them have refused to lockdown their states in order to control the spread. The truth remains that if you lockdown Lagos, Ogun and the FCT and citizens in the other states move around freely, spreading the virus, it is a matter of time and the entire nation will be engulfed.

Additionally, it is also high time the government reviewed the regime of palliatives and incentives so far with a view to ascertaining whether they have been able to achieve the desired aims and objectives. This is given that lockdown without the necessary palliatives might not achieve the desired goals and objectives. This is also given the peculiar and unique nature of the Nigerian nation and its people, where a larger percent of the citizens are poor and therefore need to go out daily to eke out a living.

President Buhari acknowledged this fact when in paragraphs 45 and 46 of his speech delivered Monday this week to extend the lockdown by another 14 days, he said: “No country can afford the full impact of a sustained restriction of movement on its economy. I am fully aware of the great experience especially by those who earn a daily wage such as traders, day workers, artisans and manual workers.

“For this group, their sustenance depends on their ability to go out. Their livelihoods depend on them mingling with others and about seeking work. But despite these realities we must not change the restrictions”.

BUSINESS AND TRANSPORT also strongly believes that the increasing crime rates recorded in some communities in Lagos and Ogun States since the commencement of the lockdown, to a high extent can be linked to these categories of citizens, who had been locked down without any other means of livelihood, given man’s natural instinct to survive. We do not in any way suggest that people should take to crime no matter the situation. This is also an indication that these palliatives may not have reached the targeted audience. These developments more than ever reinforce the urgent need for a review of the anti-COVID-19 strategies in the country.

Finally, according to statistics released by the National Centre for Disease Control NCDC last night, Nigeria has a total of 424 confirmed cases of the pandemic. The report further show that there were 35 new cases across the country yesterday alone, which were traced to person-person contact, since none of them came from the international frontiers. Out of the 35 cases, 19 were in Lagos, which is currently on lockdown.

Record also show that as at March 30, 2020 when the first 14 days of lockdown was announced in the three locations, there were 131 confirmed cases across 12 states of the federation.  This shows that a total of 293 new cases have been recorded in the country within the 17 days of lockdown. In simple terms, the lockdown is not achieving the desired objectives and therefore needs to be reviewed urgently. A stitch in time, saves nine.

The Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu had also reported that on the first day of the lockdown, a total of 400 yellow commercial buses popularly called ‘danfo’ were impounded by the security agencies enforcing the lockdown. This suggests that people are coming out to eke out a living probably because they could not access government’s palliatives.