As the COVID-19 confirmed cases continue to soar, the government continues to implement and extend lockdown as of its the only tool in its tool box. But it’s not. And the set up of our economy is not designed (if at all there is a design) to cope with this closure let alone handle it.
A total lockdown unconditionally forces the citizens to stay at home but can go out to get essential services such as groceries or see a doctor or get drugs. If you don’t provide essential services, you will close shop and go home and rest. However, in our highhanded approach to most things that have to do with the masses, even the markets selling foods and drugs have been shut. An abuse of government power here.
On the other hand, a partial lockdown is just like a total lockdown but with more services allowed to operate with strict regulations. Services such as supermarkets, pharmacies, convenience stores, hotels, factories, restaurants, railways and bus services can be allowed to operate. This will not grind the economy to a halt and will also ensure the state gets supplies that maybe used in the hospitals. The state will also get revenue and taxes and government agencies (like FIRS) will not have to beg for taxes to be paid before time.
How about a curfew? A curfew can be imposed by the state where everyone is compelled to stay at home, and people cannot come out unless at stipulated times. The economy in this case will also be operational.
Countries across the world have tried all the above three models with different results. Others have transitioned from one to the other. Ghana and South Africa are just moving from total lockdown to partial lockdown. Japan and South Korea never closed their economies. Shouldn’t Nigeria bring together its brightest minds and look at how how the economy can be opened without jeopardizing the gains we have recorded in our fight against the pandemic.
Total lockdown in a state like Kano is not sustainable. Allow Malam Mudi who grows tomato and green pepper to transport his commodity unhindered to the markets in the city. Allow Mr. Ola who is a retailer to continue his business with his customers in the most responsible way possible. These people do not have bank account let alone business registration with CAC. Allow Mr. Chijoke, the poultry farmer whose eggs are piling up to send them to the market without fuss and the one whose broilers are ready for sale to sell them. The planting season is upon us. Allow the sellers of farm inputs to open shops. Support farmers with extension services to ensure they have a successful planting season. We depend on their success now more than ever before. We are all stakeholders in this.
Put in place measures to transport people to the market and ensure social distancing when we are in the market. I saw a picture of Indian retailers drawing circles on the ground with chalk for customers to stand when pricing commodity. The circles ensured social distancing is practiced. Equally, I saw policemen standing there to ensure the regulations are followed to the letter.
As for our political and rich elites, you should know that history will surely judge you. During the Spanish flu, the city of Philadelphia grinder to a halt and people were falling like leaves on a tree during winter. Hunger was also wrecking havoc on households. The rich elites realized they will need the masses when the pandemic was over. So, the rich set up ways to deliver foods to the poor and even open up cooked food Centers where you can walk in and get a meal. Presently, the State of Florida has philanthropist raising money and buying foods from farmers who don’t know where to sell it and using social media to announce distribution to the masses. The distribution center’s were set up with humility. You will drive into the distribution Centre and just open your car booth. The volunteers at the distribution Centre will put food and other supplies in your booth and when you reach the end, another volunteers will close your booth and you will drive away with your Honor intact. If that can be done in a nation whose citizens enjoy good pay, then Nigerian citizens should need such interventions more than the US citizens.
What if we lift the total lockdown in Nigeria and the pandemic implodes? We haven’t lifted the lockdown and it’s exploding on our faces!! Maybe, it’s time we review our models before copying other nation’s strategy leave us exposed and doomed. Although, there is no victor in this war with our faceless enemy our constant prayer is to win it with the least possible casualties