The partial lockdown of Nigeria following the outbreak of COVID-19 is fast hitting harder on residents who called on governments at all levels to arrest the rising price of food items across the country.
Reports from Kaduna, Kwara and Anambra showed the skyrocketing prices of food items have become a serious source of worry to low-income earning Nigerians, who now called on governments across board to provide necessary palliatives.
Similarly, the price of sachet water, which before now sold for N10, now goes for N20 in Jahi District of Abuja and other suburbs, while a pan of rice commonly called mudu, jumped up from N600.00 to N1000.
Besides relaxing the curfew as a response to the people’s cries over hunger, the Kaduna state government also announced a N500million worth of palliatives to the residents.
The succour came amidst further rise in the number of COVID-19 cases from 135 to 174 as at Wednesday evening.
As the curfew imposed on Kaduna state to stem the spread of Coronavirus bites harder, the state executive has earmarked ₦500 million for relief items to the most vulnerable population within nine local government areas of the state.
Kaduna state, which has recorded three cases of Covid-19 since Governor Nasir el-Rufai declared a positive test Saturday, had a 24-hour curfew imposed on it Thursday to stop the spread of the disease, with consequent hardship on the people, who are restrained from going out to seek daily needs.
The state Commissioner for Human Services and Social Development, Hajiya Hafsat Mohammed Baba said Wednesday that the palliatives which composed of rice, beans, spaghetti, semovita, garri, indomie, sugar and vegetable oil would be distributed to the vulnerable in the communities.
“The Kaduna State Executive has earmarked ₦500 million for relief to the most vulnerable population in the state. Members of the State Executive Council have also made various forms of pledges in addition to that. This is certainly a great donation but we can do with more,” Hafsat tweeted.
She also told Blueprint that, “Imams, pastors, district heads, women stakeholders are the people who are to pick the vulnerable households in their communities to benefit from the relief items.
“The nine local governments that have been picked for the relief items for now are Kaduna North, Kaduna South, Zaria, Sabon Gari, Chikun, Jema’a, Igabi, Kachia and Kauru local government areas.
“Those in charge of distribution in Zaria and Sabon Gari have started distribution of the palliatives; those in the Southern Kaduna Senatorial zone have equally started the distribution of the palliatives, while that of Kaduna Central Zone will begin tomorrow (Thursday).”
She however called on wealthy individuals, philanthropists and corporate organisations to support the programme to enable the state extend the palliatives to the remaining 14 local government areas.
“People are also donating food items and cash to the state government. The contributions are coming through the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Alhaji Abbas Balarabe and he will make it public once the contributions have been collated.
“We are hoping that the legislators will also support the distribution of relief items by making their contributions because they are closer to the public who elected them,” she added.
Meanwhile, Kaduna state Deputy Governor Dr Hadiza Balarabe has announced a relaxation of the curfew in the state.
Announcing the decision in a state-wide broadcast Wednesday, the deputy governor said the decision was to allow residents move and restock food and other essential commodities between 3.00pm Wednesday and 12.00 midnight Thursday. .
She said: “The measure is to enable people to stock up on food and other essentials.
“Subsequently, the restriction of movement will be lifted every Tuesday and Wednesday. Traders in food and other essentials will open their shops on these two days.”
Balarabe who apologised for the inconvenience the restriction order had caused, said the decision was taken because of the extraordinary times which was brought about by COVID-19.
The deputy governor further appealed to people of the state to continue observing the social distancing, avoid crowded places and to wash their hands regularly.
Also, some residents of Ilorin, Kwara state, have complained of lack of fund to buy food for themselves and their children, as a result of the stay-at-home directive by the state government.
The residents Wednesday appealed to government to assist them with some palliative measures to ameliorate the harsh economic effects resulting from their compliance with the order given on March 23.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that Kwara government had given the directive as measure to contain and control the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the state.
As as result, most private and public offices as well as shops have remained closed with the exception of those dealing in food, drinks and pharmaceuticals.
Mr. Saheed Olapeju, a vehicle repairer, said government action was commendable but there was need for government to make provision for the lower class, most of whom, depended on their daily income.
“We rely on our daily income from our handwork, but with this disease that the world is battling with, we have to stay indoors. There is no other means to provide for our families.
“Many of us have finished the little food we have at home and there is no how we can work and get money to buy more. We are broke and stranded.
“Government should come to our aid, so that we will not fall ill as a result of hunger,” he said.
Mr Tope Isa, a foot wear seller, said the state government only allowed those selling food, drinks and medicine to do business.
Isa said the stay-at-home order had affected the living condition of other business owners.
“We do not know how long the stay-at-home order will last. We did not plan for it, which is why many of us have started asking for help from the rich people in our area.
“It is shameful to ask for help, but more painful not to get assistance from those you relied on, and those you believe can help,” he said.
Also, another trader, Iya Tawa, said she recorded poor sales because many people were complaining of scarcity of money while some were begging to buy on credit.
“Even those of us allowed selling drinks and provisions are finding it difficult to get patronage as many customers are complaining of no money since they cannot open their shops.
“Some youths have started behaving funny, looking for how to manoeuvre their way to buy one thing and steal three others in the process.
” This is unfortunate. We plead with government to assist and reduce the hunger that is already affecting us,” she said.
Meanwhile, the lockdown order issued by Governor Willie Obiano has recorded partial compliance in Anambra state, even as prices of commodities and transportation within the state has skyrocketed.
Blueprint investigation revealed most markets in Awka, the state capital, were partially closed as traders at some sections of the popular Government House (GRA markets), Eke-Awka market, Amenyi, Aroma junction, First Market Ifite Awka and others were spotted Wednesday displaying their commodities, including food stuffs, clothing and other wares.
It was also observed that while the roads were less busy compared to when the order was not in place, people were spotted patronising salons, eateries, mama-puts, beer-parlours, fruit sellers, streets hawkers and kiosks, pharmacies and others.
Although most transporters complied with the order not to carry more than two, four or six persons depending on the type of vehicle, transport fares in all parts of the state suddenly rose to N1000 (Awka to Nnewi), N500 (Awka to Onitsha), N500 (Awka to Ekwulobia) and N100 for short distance journeys previously charged N50.
The state had shutdown civil service, inter-state journeys, markets, public gatherings, ordered social distancing and sit-at-home, among other measures with a view to preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Consequent upon this, prices of commodities had risen, with a pan of garri previously sold for N500 currently costs N1500, a bag of sachet of water sold between N150 and N200 instead of N100, a plate of mama-put food (N300 or N400), gauging of tyers (from N100 and above), a little tin of hand sanitiser (N1000 instead of N200) among others.
Commenting on the development, a community leader, Mr Ndu Nwanna, while commending measures by government to contain the spread of the disease, appealed to the Obiano led COVID- 19 Action Committee to become proactive in its response by bringing up policies that would reduce the negative effects of government orders on the citizens.
Speaking in an interview, a trader, Mrs. Uju Ekweonu and transporter, Mr Zion Ekemezie, both blamed the hike in prices of commodities and transport fares on government whose officials, they claimed, were still chasing and taxing them.
However, in a release signed by Mr Emeh Blaiz Pascal, a staff of Taxpayer Education and Enlightenment Team (TEET) of the Anambra State Internal Revenue Service (AiRS), government debunked claim that the agency was collecting tax in the crisis period.
Paschal said the traders were free to pay from the comfort of their homes without molestation through their official website as the governor approved a “Stimulus Package of 10% of what they paid in 2019 for all Traders and Business Owners in the state. “
Meanwhile, the state command of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence (NSCDC), and that of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), had confirmed total compliance with the state government order on closure of land borders.
In separate statements, the paramilitary outfits said their monitoring teams at Amansea border Awka Enugu Express Way, Ebenebe border leading to Agbaja Ezi Agu Local Government Area of Enugu State, Niger Bridge (Anambra-Delta boundary) and Amorka(Anambra-Imo boundary) reported that their orders were not violated.
Amidst all this, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has called on public companies to publish the impact of coronavirus on their business operations.
SEC in a circular dated March 31, and released in Abuja Wednesday advised the companies to publish the information on their websites and or other relevant media.
“All public companies are required to continue to make material disclosures to investors on the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on their business operations,” the commission stated.
It said the companies should also continue to disclose the trend and outlook of the company as well as updates on implementation of business continuity plans.
The commission said it would continue to engage and collaborate with all stakeholders to ensure that the capital market remained resilient, adding that the move was part of its business continuity process.
“In compliance with the Federal Government’s directives on the cessation of movement in Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory, SEC has activated its business continuity process.
“In light of the global pandemic of the Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19), the commission wishes to provide additional guidance to the capital market as follows:
“Public companies who plan to conduct Annual General Meetings are required to ensure that the conduct of the meetings comply with the provisions of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, the Investments and Securities Act, the SEC Rules and Regulations, among others.
“Debt issuers are also expected to continue to engage trustees to ensure that relevant disclosures are provided,’’ the commission said.
The commission enjoined all Capital Market Operators (CMOs) to continue to monitor the real and potential risks COVID-19 might have had on their business operations and the discharge of services to investors and clients.
“While we work to maintain market stability, we encourage everyone to continue to comply with all directives issued by the Federal Government and relevant agencies during this challenging period,” the statement further said.