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Africa’s Largest Megacity Shuts Down

On Monday night, Nigeria became the largest country in the continent to impose a 14 day lockdown in major states across the country. The compulsory 14 days lockdown was enforced in the Nation’s capital Abuja, Lagos and Ogun state respectively. These states are home to about 30 million people. The lock down will be in place for about two weeks.

President Buhari said “All citizens in these areas are to stay in their homes. Travel to or from other states should be postponed. All businesses and offices within these locations should be fully closed during this period”. The restrictions announced do not apply to hospitals and stores selling essential items such as medicine and food stuff.

Millions of Nigerians such as food vendors, cleaners and hairdressers as well as people who earn their wages daily are faced with stark choices. The lockdown will further increase the gap between the rich and the poor as it becomes apparent that the practicalities of social distancing is a privilege millions of people can’t afford.

Panic was triggered amongst many Lagosians after the announcement as fear of prices rises. “I was expecting the government to give us a few days to sort out our domestic needs before the announcement. I feel the sudden restrictions will cause the price of commodities to increase”. Bose Odumosu, a mother of five said. Another 53 year old Cecilia Achonwa who runs a local roadside restaurant in Yaba, Lagos said before the outbreak of the virus her food business saw people forming a line to buy their meals but now they are all gone and her business is nearly collapsed. She equally said she is responsible for the welfare of five chefs who were hired from Togo.

Felicia Emmanuel a trader at the Obalabde market told CNN. “It’s bad ooo, a lot of people its the profit they make per day is what they will eat. As they are shutting down now, I wonder what it will look like, hungry will kill some people. We pray the government should do something about it. We are begging them, they should help us. Some people are shouting , they are crying and going home without buying anything. Things are too expensive”. President Buhari said all branches of government have been mobilized “to confront what has now become both a health emergency and an economic crisis “, but the lockdown means additional financial pain for millions of labourers who rely on their daily earnings to survive. The president also said that the conditional cash transfers for the next two months should be paid immediately to the most vulnerable in the society.

Another challenge facing Lagosians is that the country’s infrastructure is weak and blackouts are very frequent. Most people rely on costly diesel powered generators to power their homes and businesses. Families are hoping for regular power supply during the period of quarantine. People are scared of buying too much as they will end up thrashing the items because of the blackouts. The country is the world’s eighth largest oil exporter and is already feeling the pinch of the Corona virus with oil prices plunging.

Jide Sanwo-Olu, Lagos state governor has been widely praised for his effort in handling the crisis. His administration will distribute food to 200,000 homes with an estimated six people per household. Efforts are being made to help ease the burden of the lockdown on vulnerable menbers of the society. However millions more of people in Lagos live in extreme poverty. The country’s humanitarian minister also announced that cash transfers were being paid to the poorest households.

Most of those diagnosed with Corona virus in Nigeria have been among Nigeria’s elite and top politicians, many of whom continued to attend conferences and high profile events. “Every single case I have heard about is from someone returning from abroad. The other are from contact with those who returned and did not self isolate”, says Rolayo Subair, a legal researcher from Lagos. There are fears of community spread in Nigeria if there is inadequate contact tracing due to some leaders not disclosing their diagnosis.

Across the world, the outbreak of the new Corona virus has strained health care systems and hit economies hard, with few countries expected to emerge unscathed by the pandemic financial effect. Nigeria currently has 131 cases of Corona virus with 81 cases in Lagos.

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