By: Israel Umoh
The COVID-19 has succeeded in turning the world upside down. No one saw it coming several years ago. Peter May, the bearded Scottish journalist and BBC screenwriter, saw bird flu epidemic. But, he aptly prognosticated a lockdown- the title of his thriller book. In March 2020, a lockdown ensued.
Without announcement, the coronavirus pandemic arrived at the planet and dazzled celebrated scientists and confused world superpowers. Battered by the pandemic, the world had to impose lockdowns to clip the wings of the death’s gatekeeper. In a democratic setting, lockdown is seen as a product of dictatorship. It is akin to martial law. Without it, many would have rebuffed the order. Between life and death, the idea- cessation of movement and social distancing- is a better option that can eviscerate the brutal pandemic.
Lockdown is an emergency protocol that usually prevents people or information from leaving an area. Of buildings, a drill lockdown usually means that doors leading outside are locked such that no person may enter or exit. A full lockdown usually means that people must stay where they are and may not enter or exit a building or rooms within said building.
A preventive lockdown is pre-emptive action. The focus for preventive actions is to avoid dangers and risks arising from the non-conformances to the normal circumstances, but also commonly includes improvements inefficiency.
Though preventive lockdowns are pre-emptive lockdowns to mitigate risk, plan implemented to address an unusual scenario or a weakness in the system to preempt any danger to ensure the safety and security of people, organisation and system. Emergency lockdowns are implemented when there is an imminent threat to the lives or risk of injury to humans.
Before now, there were lockdowns which did not attract world attention. For instance, in the wake of the September 11 attacks in 2001, a three-day lockdown of American civilian airspace was initiated. In December 2005, the New South Wales Police Force (NSW Police Force) initiated a lockdown of the Sutherland Shire and other beach areas of New South Wales to contain race rioting (and retaliative strikes). There were other lockdowns carried out within cities or in the schools.
However, the coronavirus has forced numerous governments to lock down international borders, air and public spaces. China, Colombia, France, Italy, India, Malaysia, United Kingdom, Spain, United States, Nigeria, among others had shut down theirs to stem the spread of the vicious virus. In California State of United States, the slogan “Be safer at Home” is used and the result is amazing, but the underlying fact is a lockdown.
To give legal teeth to lockdown, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Quarantine Act, COVID-19 Regulation No 2 of 2020 in March 2020. According to the order, the lockdown and cessation of movement in Lagos State, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja and Ogun State were imposed and later extended for a further period of 14 days with effect from Tuesday, April 14.
Akwa Ibom governor, Udom Emmanuel equally signed the COVID-19 Regulations, 2020 into law on March 31, 2020. The law prohibits “All public burials, public weddings, and other forms of public gatherings are for the time being hereby prohibited. All places of religious worship, churches, and mosques shall strictly observe the social distancing prescription of a minimum of one-meter spacing and not more than twenty persons per gathering. In addition, handwashing facility with running water, soap and sanitizer shall be made available.”
Subsequently, the governor ordered public servants in the state to proceed on a one-week holiday. When the NCDC declared five confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state, he slammed a lockdown for two weeks and extended it for one more week.
Already, most states have imposed the lockdown while others imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew. Yet, the pandemic is throwing up new cases even in states it was not reported. Risen from Governors’ Forum meeting a few days ago, the state governors have urged the Federal Government to impose a 14-day inter-state lockdown.
There are the obverse and reverse sides of a coin. Similarly, the lockdown has negative and positive impacts. It slows down and mitigates the spread of the virus owing to the cessation of movement. It grimaces the upper, middle and lower classes as everybody lives in fear of death. It has greatly exposed the enervating health system in Nigeria and in most states. Many family ties and bonding are strengthened. Food surplus is expected as many people are forced to return to their farms.
Again, it has exposed the leadership capacity of many world presidents and state governors. US President Donald Trump, the Federal Government through the Minister of Health; Lagos State Governor Babajdie Sanwo-Olu, Kaduna Governor Nasir el-Rufai, Ogun Governor Dapo Biodun; Oyo Governor Ayo Makinde regularly addressing the press during the lockdown, and giving their subjects hope and a direction.
On the other hand, it has led to shutdown of businesses, hoarding of goods and services, creation of artificial scarcity. Places of worship- churches and mosques- are closed, thus engendering spiritual lethargy. Crude oil price is dipping. The unemployment rate is heightening. Many persons in the hospitality industry and others are negatively affected. In USA alone, more than 26.4 million people are jobless.
In the social arena, some busy and hardworking persons are facing depression, idleness, boredom, and heart attack among other diseases. Fun seekers and travelling freaks look dejected. More emergency pregnancies from some school children and unemployed hustlers. An educational doldrum is setting in. Some students will perform dismally as WAEC and NECO examinations are being shifted. Students of nursery, secondary and tertiary institutions lurk in their homes in Nigeria and other African countries. However, schools in the US and UK, are reverted to online academics.
Politically, the diplomatic buzz among some countries. Some Nigerians in China blame the country of xenophobia. More than 2,000 foreign nationals from the USA, UK, Canada, and South Africa and other countries have been evacuated from Nigeria. More than 1,000 Nigerians in USA and 300 Nigerians in China are eager to return home.
During this lockdown period caused by the pandemic, the Federal and State governments in Nigeria must change the music and the playing tune. As a matter of urgency, the governments are, therefore, enjoined to diversify their economy to meet the current exigency. Let the Nigerian government do rethink and venture into agriculture. Give soft loans to genuine and hard-working farmers as well as encourage them to embark on modern farming implements, fertilizer and pesticides. Sponsor them to national and international training using modern technology.
Let governments aggressively renovate and build more public primary, secondary tertiary institutions. Equip them with qualitative learning and teaching materials. Employ qualified teachers, train, and re-retrain the existing ones. Alleviate the sufferings and hardships of the people, mostly the jobless and the vulnerable people. Let the government ease off lockdown to forestall uprising and crisis among the famished and poor people whose means of livelihood are negatively affected.
Any inefficient, secretive, unaccountable government playing to the gallery in matters of urgent importance and thriving on falsehood must be ready to pay a costly price. The time for the Federal Government to embark on true fiscal federalism and right many wrongs of the past through policy formulation and implementation is now; the time for state governments to implement enthralling policies devoid of tribalism and sectionalism is also now.