With the expiration today of the two-week eased lockdown order by President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigerians across all divides Sunday expressed divergent views on the need or otherwise for continued lockdown.
A cross-section of Nigerians who spoke to Blueprint said the federal government’s stay-at-home order which began March 30 to curb spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, expressed hope that the lockdown would come to an end today.
President Buhari is expected to either address the nation or give a directive on what next step to take Monday June 1.
President Buhari had announced a phased and gradual easing of the lockdown in the FCT, Lagos and Ogun states in his nationwide broadcast on update and measures for the containment of the coronavirus pandemic April 27.
Most respondents who spoke to our reporters called for a completely relaxed lockdown, with a call on government to introduce some precautions, including use of nose masks, in view of the rising index cases of the virus.
In his view, a Lagos resident, teacher and father of three, Mr. Gbenga Oludare said: “I’m a teacher in a private school in Ogba, and schools have been under lock and key since March 30. I don’t have money in my pocket. I just hope government will open the schools so that we can go back to work. ”
Also in a letter to Lagos state Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Christian Leadership Monitor (CLM) asked the government to open the worship centres, saying the current situation required more of spiritual intervention than medical.
In an open letter signed by its Coordinator, Pastor Kayode Jacobs and sent to the governor Sunday, the body said “We have no doubt that the measure taken to shut down spiritual meeting points had great impact on slowing down the communal spread of the pandemic, but we make bold to say today, that available indices and circumstances does not point to any wisdom in not allowing our people to come together to look up to their God and seek help from where they believe help could be found especially when Science appear confused and contradictory.
“Despite weeks (if not now months) of full and partial lockdown, government has failed to fully achieve its plans in using the strategy to curtail the spread of the pandemic.
“Despite laws and executive orders, government is still having headaches to get the people to fully understand and cooperate with its strategy.
“Despite massive policing, involving all security agencies, government appears to be running out of steam on ways to achieve obedience to its orders,” it said.
Speaking on phone with one of our correspondents, a human right activist, Mr. Sulaiman Badaru said: “The whole thing is becoming like a joke when you consider some circumstances. At this point, I think government should not extend the lock down because people are tired of the whole thing.
“Some school of thoughts are even of the opinion that this pandemic has come to stay. So, are we going to continue to lockdown people for how long?”
Also, a private school teacher in Abuja, Mrs. Rachael Icheku, said, although government was doing everything possible to protect Nigerians, no concern was shown towards those working in private organisations.
“Since the beginning of this lockdown, no government anywhere has cared about some us working in private sectors. We teachers are the worst of it because if they is no work, there is no pay,” she lamented,” she said.
In his own view, a structural engineer and resident of Dutse, Abuja, Mr. Stephen Odu Temple called for the continuation of the lockdown because of the health implication. “The easing of lockdown should be a gradual process, i.e. stage by stage,” Temple stated.
A civil servant and a resident of Kuje, Dr Agada Sunday Ojonimi, said the lock shouldn’t continue but necessary measures like washing of hands, social distancing, and use of face mask should respected and enforced.
“Religious places such as churches and mosques should be given the thermometer for scanning their members because every Nigerian attends this place of worship and the federal government can ask the religious leaders to help them refer anyone running temperature above the usual. I believe with these measures in place, it will help curb the present pandemic.
“On another note, students should be allowed to resume schools but I advise that the upper arm like from SS 1 to the tertiary level because they are old enough to control themselves and when the virus is reduced or control the spread properly, the lower arm may then resume and parents would be at peace.”
Similarly, a civil society group known as Societal Safety Network (SSN) charged the federal government to ease the lockdown “totally” for public safety.
SS N Executive Director Ambassador Abdulrahman Agboola, in a phone chat with Blueprint, said: “We urge the president to ease the lockdown totally for public and economic safety. Nigerians and the economy are suffering, so for the public interest, the federal government should ease the lockdown.
“Nigerians are not complying with the lockdown order, they are travelling from one state to another, Nigerians are violating the order. So, to avoid further waste of time and resources the lockdown should be eased totally. People should be allowed to go about their businesses freely.”
On her part, Bashirat Muftau, wanted the federal government to ease the lockdown to allow her return to work.
In a phone chat with our correspondent, she said: “The lockdown period has not been easy for many Nigerians, including the salary earners. It is affecting many things.
“Also, despite the lockdown, the number keeps increasing every day. Many Nigerians are also seen carrying out their daily activities with total disregard for the lockdown order and almost all the NCDC measures. The lockdown is not working, so they should ease it and change their approach.”
Also, a Kaduna resident, Malam Abdul Abdul said: “The lockdown should be relaxed completely. But before then, they should fumigate schools, markets, worship places, motor parks and other places where there would be likely congregation of people.
“Then there should be social distancing and everyone should be with their face masks. Sanitiser and hand washing facilities should be made available everywhere for people to clean their hands.
“For about three months, there have been lockdown without palliatives from government most people are hungry and even indebted without going out they cannot raise money to feed their family. So, if the lockdown is relaxed and people are allowed to go out, they would be able to work and raise money to cater for the basic needs of their family.”
Similarly, another resident, Malam AbdulGafar Benbele urged government to “enforce social distance and use of face mask, then allow artisans and other businesses that do not need people to gather to go out. Measures should be put in place to safeguard students and their teachers then schools should be gradually opened across the country.
“The lockdown will not put food on people’s table and people are very hungry now, so it’s time for government to gradually relax the lockdown with enforced hygiene and allow people to go about their businesses. The important issue is for people to be allowed to go out and make money, while measures are put in place to stem the spread of COVID-19.”
Speaking on the matter, a cleric and General Overseer in charge of Great House Ministries in Minna, Niger state, Pastor Joshua Jeremiah called on President Buhari to relax the lockdown to the extent that people who depend on daily jobs for survival can get back to work.
He said total lockdown was no longer necessary in view of the tough times people were going through, adding however that people needed to go for their daily bread.
The cleric said the federal government should stop some of the stringent measures earlier put in place while continuing with preventive measures on compulsory wearing of face masks and maintaining social distancing.
Also speaking, Chairman of the state council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Comrade Abdul Idris said there was the urgent need for the president to open up the economy by relaxing the lockdown.
Idris said: “We expect the president to stop this lockdown while we adhere to necessary preventive measures stipulated by health experts.”
He advised that government should not continue to fight the pandemic at the expense of the economy.
Also speaking, a political analyst in Asaba, Delta state, Mr. Dave Okpogadie, said Nigerians expected a complete relaxation of the lockdown to revive the economy.
Mr Okpogadie said Nigerians had experienced untold hardship in the wake of the lockdown precipitated by the global pandemic and succour was much desired at this point in time.
He noted that President Buhari should placate the already economically and psychologically battered Nigerians by not only relaxing the lockdown but also putting in place measures to ensure quick recovery from the pains and trauma inflicted by the lockdown and its attended pains.
“Another area Nigerians expect Mr. President to address is the inter-state movement which was suspended and got many Nigerians trapped. Nigerians are yearning for the lift of the suspension so that normalcy can return to inter-state movement cum trade.
“We are very hopeful that the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic will be relaxed in order to pave way for the rejuvenation of the economy that has suffered immensely from the lockdown.
“It will be a welcome development if the president’s speech addresses these issues affecting the poor masses.”
Also speaking, a manufacturer, Mr Marcel Onyekwelu said all the borders should be opened for business, saying people should be allowed to go about their normal duties and live their normal life.
He however said schools should remain closed until the modalities for school resumption are perfected by the Federal Ministry of Education and Presidential Task Force on Covid19.
On his part, a business man, Chief O.Z Amadi said: “We have suffered enough, Nigerians have been told to observe personal hygiene, maintain social distancing, regular washing of hands and wearing of face masks, with all these measures put in place, we can go about our normal businesses.”
And from Abeokuta, Ogun state, the state chapter of the Nigeria Union of Labour (NLC) said the lockdown can’t continue forever.
The state NLC Chairman, Comrade Emmanuel Bankole said the federal government cannot afford to impose lockdown of states again because of the socio-economic impact on the activities of government and that of the people.
Bankole said: “The lockdown cannot continue forever. We must be responsive because of its impact on the socio-economic activities of the people, so it cannot continue forever.”
Also responding, an artisan, Mr. Kunle Idowu, said the lockdown should not be revisited, lamenting the hardships he and his family experienced while it lasted.
Idowu said: “Nigerians have started to see the lockdown and the issue of COVID-19 as a fraud. We no longer believe what the government is saying. We are beginning to see it as a way of perpetrating corruption, so we may not comply with any lockdown again.
“The hardships we went through during the period of lockdown was too much and the government did little or nothing to alleviate our suffering during g that period. The palliatives they promised were either too small or there was none, so how you now say we should go through that harrowing experience again.”
Also speaking, spokesperson of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Comrade Azeez Adeyemi called for caution on the issue of revisiting the imposition of lockdown by the federal government.
He told Blueprint that: “If only the results being declared by the federal government on daily basis are genuine and not fabricated, then the government can impose total lockdown, but if it is only an avenue for government officials to siphon money then there should not be lockdown.”
“As student leaders and stakeholders in good governance, we are in total support of lockdown if it is for the good of the entire people of the country”, Adeyemi added.
Similarly, chairman, BoT Human Rights Liberty Access and Peace Defenders Foundation (HURIDE), Comrade Dede Uzor A Uzor, asked the president to allow Nigerians live their normal lives, alleging that the lockdown had become a ploy for extortion and self-enrichment by some security agents stationed at different states’ borders.
“It is very glaring that most of these security agents have traditionally poses serious security threat vide their exploitative and extortive dispositions. There are inter-state movements throughout the country. The so-called lockdown and closure of the borders has been defeated. Let’s lockopen instead of lockdown,” Uzor added.
Also, a private security officer, Mr Uche Offor, who remained unconvinced on the existence of coronavirus in Nigeria, said extending the lockdown could result to crisis and robbery as the poor may not endure it any longer.
“Don’t they know that the poor are already angry? Haven’t they seen or heard about the increase in number of cyber criminals? They are not really serious. They will see what will happen if it continues. There may be rise in security challenges. Besides, are they really managing covid-19? I doubt it. They should allow us to go on with our normal businesses, “ Offor maintained.
Speaking to Blueprint in Gusau, Zamfara state, a trader, Malam Abubakar Abubakar, who is a resident of Gusau, called for the total relaxation of the lockdown.
This, he said, was to avoid subjecting the common man to abject poverty, starvation and total collape of their socio-economic potentials.
“You can imagine, a common slipper we sell for N150 is now N500 because of this lockdown, just because we have no access to bulk purchase.”
He appealed to President Buhari to return the nation to its normal life and allow Nigerians to continue with their daily means of surviving.
In his view, a tailor, Malam Hafizu Dosara, said the federal government should tackle the security challenges facing Zamfara, Sokoto and Katsina states.
He belived the pandemic had brought a lot of setbacks both socially, economically and politically to Nigerians, hence the need for the government to lift the lockdown.
Similar view was expressed by a journalists, Malam Sani Muhammad Sani, who said: “My fear is that, let the federal government not push Nigerians into the world that could lead to mass protest on this issue of COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, let President Buhari allow Nigerians to go back to their normal life, particularly the vulnerable people, since we are in a democratic set up.”
From Yola, Adamawa state, a resident, Malam Mohammed Sahabo rejected further lockdown extension, saying, “you can’t continue to lock people in their homes continuously crippling their businesses and means of livelihood without providing them with alternative means of survival.”
Similarly position was canvassed by Malam Abubakar Usman, who believed “the whole thing is all about politics. To continue keeping people at home in the name of lockdown is highly detrimental to the economy of this country. Hunger and starvation has killed many Nigerians as a result of this lockdown than the disease itself and some people are busy making billions in the name of lockdown. Despite the lowdown, has anything changed? Rather, it keeps worsening by the day. “
But another respondent, Mr. John Zira believed whatever decision government takes on this would be in the overall interest of Nigerians.
If extending the lockdown, he said, would help reduce the spread of the pandemic, so be it.
“If the extension of the lowdown will further help in reducing the spread of the pandemic why not? And I know that government will not take any decision that will not be in the overall interest of the country. We need to be patient with government and give them all the necessary supports they need to tackle these challenges because there is no substitute to human lives.”
And from Bauchi, bauchi state, a corps member, Emily Nwankwo said since the pandemic was staying longer in the society, government needed to lift the lockdown in order to allow people go about their normal businesses.
She said: “First of all the lockdown should stop because there is hunger. People are suffering. There is no food, there is no market.
“It has affected the education sector too as many people who are supposed to graduate now did not due to the lockdown. We know that there is corona, but we devised means of preventing it. So we will take precautions.”
Also responding, a lecturer at the Abubakar Tatari Ali Polytechnic (ATAP) Bauchi, Mrs Roseline Tamuno, said: “For me, the lockdown should stop because there are so many people that lost their jobs because of this lockdown. And there is famine in the country, no food, hunger and people are dying not because of the coronavirus but because of starvation.”
Decision lies with states –FG
And in all of this, the federal government said the next phase of the national response to the pandemic solely lies with the states.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) Boss Mustapha said this while speaking to journalists Sunday in Abuja.
This, he however said, would however be dependent on the directives of Mr President.
While saying the next level in the COVID-19 fight would require the full support of traditional and religious institutions, he said: “That’s part of what we have considered in its totality. We’d await Mr President’s decision on that, once I receive his approval, going forward, as to certain recommendations we have put in place, we will see how that happens.
“The issue of easing up, you know we are in the first phase, we had an extension of two weeks for the first phase, the next phase should be the second phase and along with that will come in with a lot of recommendations, which we expect Mr President to consider.
“But I can assure you about one thing, that the ownership of the next stage will be the responsibility of the states and the national supervision and coordination because we have gone into community transmission.”
“Where are the communities? The communities are in the states. So the ownership of the next stage will be the responsibility of the states, the local government, the traditional institutions, the religious leaders at the different levels of our communities because that is where the problem is.
“Like we’ve kept saying, 20 local governments, out of 774, account for 60% of confirmed cases in Nigeria today. So where are these 20 local governments? They are in communities. It means we have reached the apex of community transmission and we must get the communities involved.
“So the issues of places of worships, the issues of schools, the issues of some certain businesses that were not opened hitherto are part of the packages that we have looked at and we’ve made the appropriate recommendations, but you know that Mr President is the only one that can take decisions in respect of that.
“In the framework, the states are sub-nationals, they have their own responsibilities too, so it is in the exercise of those responsibilities that they had meetings with those religious bodies and agreed on the guidelines and protocols on how they open up, but in the framework of the national response we are taking that into consideration”, the SGFsaid.
On Kogi and Cross River states where the COVID-19 was not yet a ‘reality’ Mustapha said: something would be done to sort things out.
He said: “We discussed challenges generally and I believe that in the context of those discussions, certain steps will be taken. We are doing everything to ensure that the entire nation is on the same page with one response and it is very important that we realise that no state is an island unto itself, when you deal with public health matters.
“Whatever happens in a particular locality has the consequences of spilling off to other constituencies. That is the message that we’ll continue to drive in our pursuit of getting everybody to be on board and I can assure you that there’s no island that exists as far as COVID-19 is concerned in this country.
“We must integrate all the responses from the different segments of the community and the state and have everybody to be on the same page. We will continue to pursue that and we must also ensure that it happens. I can assure about that.”