Covid-19: The losers, the gainers

The coronavirus or pandemic has killed thousands of infected people across the globe since it was detected in China in December 2019; this has led to a drop in world economies. In Nigeria, more than 140 Nigerians have been reportedly infected, with two deaths since the first case was recorded in February. PAUL OKAH takes a look at those gaining or losing from the pandemic.

The Igbo have a saying that ala a di nma bu ulu nde nze – loosely translated to mean that “people benefit from bad situations” or “elders benefit from problems in the land.”

The above saying is particularly true in the world today, with thousands of peoples in different countries getting infected or dying daily of the coronavirus pandemic that was first recorded in China in December, 2019.

The infection was reported in Nigeria on February 27, this year, when an Italian businessman tested positive for the in Lagos, but the pandemic has since spread to other states, including Oyo, Ekiti, Rivers, Enugu, Ogun, Edo, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), among others.

Understandably, the outbreak has led to the closure of businesses, worship centres, night clubs, among others, with state and federal governments advising citizens to restrict their movements and for some civil servants to work from home, in order to curtail further spread of the virus.

In fact, on March 29, 2020, in a nationwide broadcast, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered a total lockdown in Ogun, Lagos, and Abuja for two weeks and advised Nigerians to stay at home; a development that led to panic-buying and people making last-minute arrangements on ways of surviving at home in the next 14 days.

Needless to say that many Nigerians were not prepared for what they are currently experiencing, with many having no other option than to prepare for the worst, while a greater population, especially the less privileged, are requesting for government to provide palliative measures to cushion the effects of the lockdown.

Nevertheless, while the pandemic has been affecting different sectors of the economy, many Nigerians are actually seeing the situation as a blessing in disguise and are actually cashing into the situation, as can be seen below.

Families bonding more

Unarguably, this period of working from home has afforded many families the opportunity of spending more time together. There is no longer a situation of the woman waking up very early to prepare breakfast for the husband to rush to the office or children rushing off to school.

Spending more time together as a couple or family would expectedly lead to petty quarrels or issues settled, with less expenses incurred, as there is restriction in movements.

 In a chat with this reporter, a civil servant, Mrs. Cynthia Adebayo, said except from the time she was in honeymoon after their wedding in 2013, she has never spent more time with her husband than she is doing now.

She said, “The truth is that we are working class people and have to work had to cater for our children. Imagine a situation whereby I wake up by 4am to start preparing what our three children will take to school. Then I will turn attention to my husband as he prepares for the office.

“Of course, there are also trips within and outside the country; so, we don’t usually spend much time together. However, this coronavirus pandemic has really changed many things. With no business meetings to attend, my husband is now more at home, though still a bit distracted with social media. But when you see more of your partner, you can agree with me that no fun can beat that.

“Though the kids also contribute their fair share of scattering the house more than usual, they father is available to discipline them and relieve my constant shouting by making them to fall in line. If not that it may sound callous, I actually like this aspect of the pandemic because it has afforded us the opportunity to bond together as a family.” 

Improvement in hygiene

Many people now pay more attention to their health in fear of the rampaging virus more than ever before. Before the virus berthed in Nigeria, many people hardly paid attention to their personal hygiene, especially regular washing of hands.

However, with several sensitisation efforts by agencies of government and health workers, almost every Nigerian is an advocacy on personal hygiene and there is every certainty that we will have a nation of a people being eager to take care of their health at the end of this trying period.

In a chat with this reporter, a fashion designer in Jahi, Abuja, Mrs. Fatima Ahmed, admitted that the only time she paid more attention to her health was during the Ebola outbreak in 2014, but that she has started wearing face masks, hand gloves and using hand sanitisers.

“To be honest, I have never spared much thought about washing my hands, except when I am about to eat and after eating. However, the situation right now demands that we pay more attention to our health, especially as a good immune system will help infected people to fight off the virus.

“The only ‘drug’ for the virus at present are the various preventive measures, which include staying at home (avoidance of any form of travelling at the moment), washing one’s hands regularly with an alcohol-based sanitiser, maintaining personal and environmental hygiene, avoidance of bodily contacts with others (social distancing), not touching the eyes, nose among others,” she said.

 Fake news 

The social media is awash with fake news, especially on the pandemic; with almost everyone turning emergency health experts. On different WhatsApp groups, “forwarded as received” messages are trending, without an originator or attribution.

Hackers are also said to be at work at this time. In fact, an unverified message circulated on social media without a source has the following message:

“Please, disregard any link to download covid-19 self testing app… It locks up your phone, emails, social media, and any Android-based accounts you might have. The developers are hackers and designed it in such a way that it picks your accounts and password, blocks everything, then ask you to pay in bit coins before you can regain access…”

Commenting on the situation, a business consultant, Mr. Aderogba Matthews, said with people staying at home without thoughts of work, the next option would be to create news for people to comment on; thereby creating avenue for fake news to trend.

“This is the season of fake news. Unarguably, rumour-mongers are the ones mostly benefiting from this coronavirus pandemic. When the president said that many Nigerian youths are lazy, people criticised him, but look at what is happening in the country today. People stay in their homes to create fake news and deceive innocent Nigerians.

“For instance, the recent address by President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday on the covid-19 pandemic was also exploited by facebook peddlers as they claimed he made the broadcast from a hotel in Cuba, whereas the president is very much in the country. Regrettably, many people are too eager to believe them, so fake news continues to trend unabated,” he said.

Hawkers benefitting

Interestingly, once the nation started recording cases of the pandemic, especially in Lagos and Abuja, many Nigerians immediately switched attention to manufacturing or importing health products, especially hand sanitisers, face masks, gloves, among others.

Almost in every corner or traffic in states across the nation, hawkers rush after motorists or passersby with hand sanitisers, face masks and hand gloves for possible patronage.

In a chat with Weekend, a teenage hawker at Gwarinpa – Kado expressway, who identified himself simply as Audu, said he started hawking the products since schools in the FCT were closed down over the coronavirus pandemic.

He said, “I was helping my mother to sell bread from Next Supermarket during evening hours until this coronavirus pandemic started. Therefore, we quickly switched over to buying hand sanitisers, face masks and hand gloves. We sell the hand sanitisers at N1, 000 per bottle of 700ml. I have sold many bottles. I never envisaged that I would be selling this. 

“I pray the situation continues so that I can make more money before the school opens. I didn’t know that Nigerians love their lives this much. Even though many complain of ‘no money,’ they still buy at the end of the day. Really, it is an interesting period and I wish it continues for a long time.”

Online businesses booming

Not many people paid much attention to online transactions, but the restriction on movements have literarily forced people to spend hours on the internet in search of products to buy online, since physical stores have been closed down.

Dispatch riders have been particularly busy trying to get products across to people, especially in states that have not ordered total lockdown, leading to a boost in online transactions that were hitherto ignored.

Also, telecommunication companies are “harvesting” millions of naira on a daily basis from Nigerians on data subscription and purchase of airtime to contact family members and colleagues, since many workers now work from home and people spend more time on the internet than ever before.

Nevertheless, on the flip side, despite the fact that many people are making money from the situation, the disease has led to a lot of negative impact on businesses and social events.

Economic downturn

Obviously, economic experts have warned of an impending recession because of the pandemic, with many saying that there will be loss of jobs in the coming months, especially with many businesses closing down and staffers being laid off. 

Almost on a daily basis, the price of oil in the international market keeps falling down to less than $30 per barrel, with price of fuel reduced to N125 per litre and agencies revealing that the 2020 budget can no longer be implemented with the current situation.

Postponed events

Also, social events have been banned by different state governments following the pandemic. With burials, weddings, religious gatherings and other social gatherings banned, the days have become very boring, with many affected Nigerians bemoaning their fates.

In fact, those who had fixed weddings, burials and other social events for March and/or this April have grudgingly postponed them. In a chat with this reporter, a physically challenged writer in Ebonyi state, Mr. Zico Chuks Agha, who is supposed to wed on April 13, this year, said the wedding may be postponed following the ban on social gathering in the state.

“When journalists from NTA visited my residence for a reaction on the coronavirus outbreak and how it affects my upcoming wedding, my answer was that l have nothing to say for now until the two weeks of stay at home is over. l have been receiving calls and text messages from notable friends, but we are still watching and praying that the wedding will still hold on the 13th of this month,” he said.

Transportation palaver

Those with thoughts of flying abroad or travelling to other states through air have been dashed as federal and state governments have closed down many airports across the country or restricted flights to only essentials, leading to the laying off of staff by airport authorities.

Also, transportation companies have been restricted or banned from entering or exiting different states, with transportation companies like Peace Mass Transit ordering its officials to stop movement till further notice; leaving drivers confused on how to cater for their families.

Closure of churches, mosques

With religious centres closed down, no offering or tithes by dedicated worshippers, many churches have also been affected by the pandemic. Though many churches have developed applications for devoted members to pay offerings and tithes, they have come under heavy criticism from Nigerians, who feel that the church should be giving back to society at this time. 

Ada Chinyere Cummings, a Lagos-based businesswoman and sister to popular Nollywood comedian, Charles Awurum, said this is not the time for the church to expect donations from worshipers, but that the church can actually start giving back to society during this coronavirus pandemic.

“All those tithe payers are supposed to be receiving dividends from their pastors now. If you pay tithe at this time, you’re a big fool. Yes, if anyone pays tithe now that they are at home doing nothing now, the person is a fool. This is the time pastors are supposed to start giving members some good help, not collecting tithes. Pastors should help, not to collect from their members at this virus time. Read your scripture very well, tithe has been superceded by Christ. Christ never asked you to pay tithe and He never paid any,” she said.

Football, others suspended

Many Nigerians hitherto made additional income from staking bets on football clubs. However, with football matches and other sporting events cancelled or postponed, sports betting have nosedived, with many stakers ruing their chances of making money. 

Also, many football clubs, especially Juventus, have agreed to a pay cut for players. Players for different clubs have grudgingly agreed a pay cut for several months; to help support the pandemic.

Experts’ warning

In an interview with Blueprint Weekend, an Abuja-based public health specialist and sustainable development consultant, Dr. Laz Ude Eze, said Nigeria as a country has a lot to gain from the pandemic, especially the possibility of a revamp in the health care sector, but warned that this may come with dire consequences.

He said, “Nigeria has a lot to gain from this pandemic, including more and increased personal hygiene practices, increased consciousness among policymakers on the need for a timely and sufficient investment in health, increased capacity of public health professionals in managing emergencies like this, more ventilators in some hospitals, reduction in road traffic accidents due to restriction of movement, stronger family bonds, among others.

“Sadly, we may also record loss of lives, economic meltdown may potentially lead to recession, overstretched health system, and job losses, especially in the private sector, increased malnutrition especially among children under-5 years due to the lockdown, attention shift to covid-19 may cause more deaths from other diseases and health conditions.

“There is also the danger of poor family planning and exponential population growth in a declining economy, there may be baby boom from December 2020; as a result of the sit at home order, budget cuts and slower economic growth, potential increase in crime rate due to raised economic hardship, among others.”

 Similarly, an economic expert, Dr. Chiwuike Uba, said Nigeria commenced the journey into recession in early 2019, long before the advent of the covid-19 pandemic and that socio-economic indicators present a bleak future for Nigeria’s economy.

“With an already existing poor/low growth in the non-oil sector, the drop in the oil price to below $30 per barrel would lead to higher fiscal deficit and with dire economic consequences on economic activities and growth. Don’t forget that our economy is naturally structured for consumption; the reason we use the word ‘sharing’ when the states converge on Abuja to share the monthly FAAC.

“I would say that the federal government has not done enough to avert this, outside the usual government orders and policies, which come without an adequate and implementable action plan. However, I would commend the CBN for the interventions it has made to boost the economy so far. To ensure the economy does not go into recession, the CBN made loans available through the loan-to-deposit (LDR) policy to revive some comatose sectors,” he said.

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