Nigeria: COVID-19 Lockdown - a Welcome Move

31 March 2020

In a bold move, so far taken, to contain the spread of the rampaging COVID-19, President Muhammadu Buhari announced a complete shutdown of Lagos, Ogun states as well as the Federal Capital Territory for the next 14 days beginning from 11 pm on Monday.

In a televised broadcast to the nation on Sunday evening, President Buhari said the decision to totally restrict movement in Lagos and the FCT was because they have so far recorded the highest number of confirmed cases of the virus while Ogun was locked down because of its proximity to Lagos.

The President said all citizens in these areas are to stay at home while all businesses and offices within these locations should be fully closed during the period. He, however, announced that the order does not apply to hospitals and all related establishments, food processing, distribution and retail companies.

The shutdown would not affect seaports in Lagos, all vehicles conveying food items and workers providing essential services.

He said government would use this containment period to identify, trace and isolate all individuals that have come into contact with confirmed cases, treat them and restrict further spread to other states.

"We are fully aware that such measure will cause much hardship and inconvenience to many citizens. But this is a matter of life and death if we look at the dreadful daily toll of deaths in Italy, France and Spain," he said.

In a realisation of this, President Buhari announced a series of measures to cushion the effect the stay-at-home order would cause the ordinary citizens. One of such is the distribution of relief materials in satellite and commuter towns in Lagos and Abuja.

Similarly, he directed that a three month repayment moratorium be given to all Federal Government funded as well as TraderMoni, MarketMoni and Farmermoni loans. He also directed the payment, for the next two months, to all beneficiaries of the government's conditional cash transfer programme.

We commend the federal government for coming out with these bold steps to tackle the rampaging disease that has taken the world headlong. We however, advise for further clarification on the pronouncement on the School Feeding Programme. At a period when schools have been closed to reduce person-to-person contact, it may be counter-productive to be bringing the children together again.

Given the weakness of our health system and our population, there is an urgent need to take stringent steps to stop the spread of the virus. It is, therefore, of utmost importance that the federal and state governments further consolidate their efforts so that we will together defeat this virus. It is encouraging that some state governments have started taking steps towards this direction but it is more important to see that all measures taken are synchronized and fully implemented.

It is also important that state governments, who have blocked movements through their territories to relax the measure especially to allow the passage of those vehicles carrying food and other essential needs such as medical supplies.

We also call on the security agents that will be charged with supervising the implementation of the various measures to carry out their tasks in the best professional way. They should not use this to trample on the rights of the ordinary citizen.

But more importantly, Nigerians have a greater role to play. Government can only succeed if we, as individuals, adhere strictly to measures proposed. We, therefore urge every Nigerian to, despite the shortcomings in the speech, be our brothers keepers by accepting the lockdown as sacrifice that would be in the best interest of the people.

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