The 36-state governors under the aegis of Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) have reached a decision to support a total lockdown of inter-state movement as a measure to contain the spread of COVID-19. The governors reached the consensus in a meeting held via video conferencing on Wednesday.
This is coming in the eve that Nigeria recorded 873 cases of coronavirus that has resulted in 28 deaths.
Chairman of the NGF, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, said in a statement said the increasing number of cases spreading to states has necessitated the decision of the governors.
Fayemi said that among other decisions made by the governors is to set up regional COVID-19 committees that will be headed by health commissioners.
So far, 13 states in Nigeria have confirmed cases of coronavirus, and the way it is going, more states are going to be affected in no time. The director of the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu has earlier warned that the pandemic will touch every state in the country. He said on Monday that president Buhari will make a very difficult decision next week. That and the recent rate of spread have prompted the governors to converge and decide on the next line of action.
The federal government initiated lockdown about three weeks ago, covering the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun states, with exemption of movement for those handling essential services. Some states have also shut borders and restricted inter-state movements.
The number of new states affected in three weeks suggests that inter-state movement across the country is fueling the spread, though the governors said essential services will be allowed.
The WHO has seriously advocated lockdown as one of the best ways to quell the virus.
With Nigeria poorly prepared to take on the pandemic, her best shot is to stop the spread. While the governors appear to have taken the right step, there is doubt they have what it takes to keep the people at home.
Governor Benedict Ayade of Cross River State had earlier said that further extension of the lockdown will give room for uncontrollable youth restiveness.
“With prices of oil falling, locking out is far better than locking down because another two weeks of lockdown will find this country under siege by young people. There is no way you can hold down these young energies for too long.
“It is demographic, it is statistics. 65% percent of the population is below the age of 35 and the virus itself does not have penetrative force in such demography and that is what we have to recognize as a country,” he said.
Apart from governor Ayade, who has shown consistency in distribution of palliatives in his state, others have woefully fallen short. The Cross River State governor has given an emergency employment to 8,000 youths in the state who he placed on N30,000 monthly salary, as part of efforts to cushion the hardship effects the pandemic will bring on Cross Riverians. Other than that, he has distributed tons of food items to over 140,000 households in the state.
But in his opinion, that is not enough. Other governors apparently are not prepared for what has come, and lack the funding, and infrastructure capacity to confront the exigencies.
In Lagos, Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s effort to provide relief to the people in state has been something Lagosians don’t want to reckon with. Last week, Sanwo-Olu said the State Government will be serving a square meal per day to 100,000 youths in each Local Development Council (LCDA) in the State. Reports from residents of the LCDAs said the feeding program has been everything short of what the governor promised.
In other states, though they have lower or no cases of COVID-19 yet, their financial capability to remedy the implication of inter-state travel is close to none. The Federal Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) has drastically reduced due to plummeted crude oil price. In March, the federal government, states and Local Governments shared N780,926 billion which appears to be the highest amount that will be shared in months from now as Nigeria is currently paying consumers to buy its oil. With the states, apart from Lagos, totally dependent on FAAC, paying workers will be difficult not to talk of providing palliatives for their citizens.
A large number of businesses are going to be severely affected, including those in inter-state transport services. with no little or no hope for revenue generation in the coming months, Nigerians have been advised to prepare for the worst.