It has been a month since I posted on my column here at 1st News. Also, it has been about a month since the coronavirus hit Nigeria. Fortunately, my absence had nothing to do with the coronavirus. It was purely coincidental as I have been travelling for work.
And to be honest, while I am not sure it makes sense to say that; I am grateful to be outside the country at this time; especially considering the current resurgence of hoodlums and the callous measure the government is adopting to enforce a lock down…But yes, I am. Sure, there are a few coronavirus cases in the city where I am currently located. However, I can say for sure that there is less cause for anxiety for me.
My sister and I had a conversation yesterday. She was scheduled for an appointment at the hospital for a check-up. However, she said to me that she had to cancel as she was afraid of being attacked by touts; on her way to the hospital.
I first accused her of being lazy and nonchalant as I didn’t believe the situation as that dire. However, upon spending time on research and following up on the reported cases of violence; in the last week since the extension of the lockdown by the government, I have to say that I am deeply stressed!
Why? Why? Oh! Why? Why, my people?
Apparently, many residents of Lagos and Ogun have reported cases of robbery attacks in their communities on social media. Since the lockdown entered its second week, the spate of robbery incidents has escalated in some Lagos and Ogun communities; forcing citizens to set up vigilance groups and make all sorts of barricades to protect themselves.
Nigerians living in Sango-Ota and Ijoko area of Ogun state actually took to social media; with many of them reporting cases of robbery in their neighbourhoods and looting of shops. Also, some residents of Abule-Egba, Iyana-Ipaja, Alagbado, and Agege area of Lagos state; have also narrated incidents of robbery attacks with aggressors and cultists invading their houses.
According to the media, the Nigerian Police is trying to manage the situation with the Commissioner of Police; Lagos State Command, CP Hakeem Odumosu, ordering immediate deployment of operatives of the Command’s Special Strike Force on Social Miscreants; Anti-Robbery Squad, Anti-Cultism Squad and Raiders to various parts of the state in an effort to tackle the menace of social miscreants and violent crimes perpetrated by hoodlums.
They even also assured members of the public of adequate protection of their lives and property; during and after the lockdown period.
No doubt, it all sounds great, but really, what good will that do!
Not to justify the actions of these hoodlums, but the extension of the lockdown is having done nothing; but only add to the hardship of millions of Nigerians living hand-to-mouth, often on less than one dollar a day. Even families reliant on hourly work or who own small business that provide for them daily; are already running out of money, forcing them back out to look for jobs and customers for their business.
Meanwhile, reports in the media also stated that the Humanitarian Affairs Ministry began paying 20,000 naira ($52) to families in the national social register of poor and vulnerable households since April 1. But where is the proof? The government has failed to disclose key details of the cash transfer program! It is really sad that a number of people at the helm of the government are so greedy that; they intend to profit from all of this.
My point is simple.
The coronavirus situation is deepening the consequences of inequality; pushing many of the burdens onto those on the lower end of the labor markets. Low-income families are forced to accept a higher risk of exposure as they can’t even afford the basics they need; to stay healthy and protect themselves during the lockdown period.
It is critical for the government to truthfully put money in people’s pockets as soon as possible; for provision during the period of lockdown. Also, they need to provide basic services to people that have to be quarantined, and to the businesses affected.
Doing so will definitely address some food insecurity issues and reduce the rising violence.
The coronavirus situation is already causing a lot of tension and anxiety. In fact, we really do not need insecurity as an additional problem.