By Sulaimon Olanrewaju
Before the advent of COVID-19, Nigeria was already in a dire strait. In 2018, the Brookings Institution in a report, The Start of a New Poverty Narrative, named Nigeria as the global headquarters of poverty as the country was home to about 87 million people living in extreme poverty, the highest in the world. Corroborating this, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, while presenting the 2020 budget estimates for the approval of the House of Representatives Committee on Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees in November 2019, said Nigeria had 90 million of her citizens living in poverty. So, before being dragged to the battle against coronavirus disease, Nigeria was already in full war with poverty.
So, the coming of coronavirus disease and the prescription of social distancing and total lockdown as the antidote threw Nigeria between the devil and the deep blue sea. It exacerbated an already difficult situation. To contain the spread of the virus which has afflicted over a million people around the world and rendered many advanced countries incapacitated, the Federal Government ordered the lockdown of Lagos and Ogun states as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). A number of governors also directed a total lockdown of their states. However, the lockdown could not be sustained because of the high level of poverty of the citizenry which forces them to live from hand to mouth. The poor need to go out daily to eke out a living. If the poor don’t go out, they go hungry.
Although the Federal Government, states as well as some public-spirited individuals and organisations have tried to give palliatives to the nation’s teeming poor people, it is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. Many of the nation’s 90million poor people are still left out; they are still unreached. So, they can’t stay indoors for the fear of being killed by hunger.
Realising this dilemma, the Federal Government had to relax the restriction order and opened a window to allow the people to go out daily to buy or beg for food. In its own modification of the order, Ogun State government allows citizens to go out for about five hours every other day to get food items. While Oyo State has ordered that all government offices and others be closed, it allows food markets to operate so that the people can have access to food items.
According to the state governor, it does not make sense locking up people when they don’t have food to eat. Some states have also relaxed the restriction to allow citizens observe Jumat service and Easter celebration.