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Opinions of Monday, 20 April 2020

Columnist: MyNigeria

Who will stand up for the hungry in Nigeria?

There are two schools of thought on the approach to adopt to tackle the covid 19 pandemic. On one side of the fence are the governments of most countries that have been legislating a lock down of their citizens in their homes. The idea is to flatten the curve of infection. Nigeria has not been left out and has followed suit by enforcing a lockdown in majority of its States to wit: Lagos State, Federal Capital Territory, Rivers State, Ogun State, just to mention a few. Their actions have been keenly supported by swathes of the population.

On the other side of the fence, are people who believe that at this time, our Government should be more creative and not adopt the approach of middle-income countries hook, line and sinker by enforcing a total lockdown. The reason primarily being two-fold, first is that our Governments in Sub Saharan Africa do not have the fiscal muscle of the middle-income countries who have established social welfare systems in place. Secondly, is that the socio-economic effects during and after the lockdown cannot be contained by the government.In Lagos State for instance, since the lockdown there has been an increase in the crime rate. This was not unexpected. The purpose of the lockdown in the developed countries is to lighten the burden on the public health care system not to reduce infection to zero. As we write, there is a second wave of infection beginning in Suifenhe, China.

In an effort to mitigate the economic effects of the pandemic, the Central Bank of Nigeria released a document titled’ Turning the covid 19 tragedy into an opportunity for a new Nigeria’. The document which reads more like a campaign manifesto depicted immediate, short and medium term policies which are to end within the remaining three years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. It is a stimulus package of N 3.5 trillion. But in reality, the jury is still out on how it will impact on the lives of average Nigerians in the next 7 days which really is what matters right now. Before covid 19 there were many incentives for investing in the economy, these still exist, the problem is in the implementation and chronic lack of sincerity by the Government. Furthermore, there are no checks on the implementation. Ultimately the schemes are a means of fleecing the Nation.

Nigeria is in need of adaptative leadership and thinking. The Government of Plateau State in extending the lockdown in Plateau State, exempted farmers because the rains had started. It is this sort of thinking that should be holistically applied to the Nigerian economy. However, farming is not the only industry that the rains will affect. In fact, any manufacturer will tell you that productivity reduces remarkably in the raining season. Concrete alternative policies are required to be rolled out along with the existing social distancing orders. In Malawi, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition, a civil society group successfully challenged the planned lockdown which was meant to begin this weekend for 3 weeks. The High Court suspended the lock down for 8 days on the pretext that Government had not made enough provision to stop people from going hungry.

On the 23rd March 2020, the Chief Justice of Nigeria directed that all courts nationwide should close for 14 days. On the 6th April 2020, he further directed that the courts should close indefinitely save to dispense matters that are urgent, essential or time bound in line with our extant laws. With what is on ground in the administration of justice, time is of little significance thus the ‘time’ qualification in reality is not helpful. Let us pray that we do not have cause to be at the mercy of the courts at this time . Scenarios of unlawful arrests and many unfathomable situations flash through my mind. The Chief Justice should have modified the procedural aspect of hearings by introducing tested online and virtual systems rather than parroting .

Covid 19 has brought about a forced hiatus on every one of us. The Nation is at a cross road. The pandemic has sowed the seeds for a new Nigeria. It is inevitable that there will be a total overhaul of leadership across board in Nigeria. The upcoming leaders in Nigeria must begin to stand up for the hungry.

Tips on well-being: Boost your immune system by healthy eating and exercise. Wash your hands regularly. The new economy is knowledge-driven, it is a click away on the internet. The great fortune is that the internet is colour blind. There is no tribalism or discrimination. It is a second opportunity. Finally, trust in God eternally and divinely. Think positively.

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