Nigeria is in a state of dilemma. She is currently in a position that placed her between the devil and the deep blue sea. Any direction she takes now spells disaster for her. So she needs to choose the lesser evil; though none of the options seems less disastrous.
The moment it became obvious that restriction of movement order will be enacted to minimize and contain the spread of COVID-19, people became afraid. People knew that the lockdown was the best option but they couldn’t imagine what their lives would be like during the period. They hoped against all odds that the order wouldn’t be put in place. But alas, they were disappointed to find out that there is no running away from a lockdown.
Then people were only afraid of not being able to find daily meals. Those that survive on daily income were the most concerned. The people that could afford to stock up necessary supplies in their houses did so while those that couldn’t, trusted on providence to provide for them. That was the state of the nation when state and federal governments began issuing lockdown orders and started placing security personnel in place to enforce them. Then, the only worries of every average Nigerian was hunger. Today, the worries have surpassed fear of starvation.
The COVID-19 induced lockdown has woken up a lot of sleeping demons. These, in addition to hunger, include inflation, extortion, bullying and armed robbery.
- Inflation: The 30th of March, 2020 is a day that marked the peak of inflation in many parts of Nigeria. The prices of goods in the market escalated beyond imagination. For no reason whatsoever, traders increased the prices of essential goods such as food stuffs and toiletries. They knew that people must buy things they will use during the lockdown and decided to use that day to extort buyers of their hard earned money. This hike in prices continued into the lockdown. Right now, the reasons traders give for the price hike is that the lockdown made it difficult and expensive to “import” food stuffs from their producing states.
- Extortion: Officers of the Nigerian Police Force, as usual, are using this period to make money. In fact, the traders claimed that policemen are part of the reasons why food stuffs are expensive nowadays. It is said that police mounted roadblocks days before the lockdown commenced and started from that period to extort motorists that want to “cross the border”. Speculation has it that lockdown only works for those that don’t have money to settle the police. However, it is quite unfair that members of NPF should disturb the movement of foodstuffs despite knowing that lockdown should not affect flow of food. Extorting from motorists, especially from traders that bought food ingredients to sell is wrong and should therefore be checked.
- Bullying: Several disheartening videos of members of the NPF and the NA bullying people they met on the road have emerged. Some health workers and other people in essential services have narrated their ordeals in the hands of security agents who manhandled them when they, the workers, were on their way to work. These security agents did not bother to verify these people’s given reasons for leaving their homes but rather decided to abuse the power given to them. There are also cases of sick people going to hospitals that were forced to go back home by these security agents. Most of us must have heard of the Warri incident, where a civilian and a soldier lost their lives all in the name of maintaining lockdown order. These attitudes are threats to the maintenance of the lockdown policy.
- Robbery: Several cases of harassment, intimidation, extortion, robbery and shoplifting filtered into the news on Saturday, 11th April, 2020. An eye witness of the Abule Egba robbery took to Twitter to narrate how a group of young boys took to the street in broad daylight, shot sporadically, harassed and stole from residents and broke into shops. These people had their field day and later left undisturbed. Some people have linked these robbers to miscreants operating in those areas while some others linked them to people pushed over the edges by lockdown-related hunger. No one can categorically state what caused these young men to go into such an occupation, but what we all are sure of is that in a matter of time, such an act will spread to other parts of the country unless something is done to hold it at bay.
The dilemma Nigeria is facing now is whether the lockdown order should be lifted or if it should be sustained. Lifting the restriction means that COVID-19 will become epidemic in the country and claim as many lives as it could before it becomes contained. But maintaining the restriction means that hunger, inflation, intimidation, extortion, robbery, and many other social vices may go berserk. Put differently, Nigerian government is faced between losing the citizens to death by COVID-19 and losing them to death by the lockdown demons.
The only hope Nigeria has is that it can control the second option while the first one is out of anybody’s control until a vaccine is found. This is just to let the concerned authorities know that they still have a lot of things to do so that the lockdown will not become a nightmare.