Except for the sight of few commercial bus drivers and motorcyclists engaging in brisk business operations to make ends meet and in that way circumventing the presidential stay-at-home order, major roads across Lagos State are deserted as handful of commuters are stranded at various bus stations.
Apart from grounding commercial activities, the confinement of people to their homes as part of measures adopted by the government to contain the spread of the coronavirus infection has left many people wallowing in hunger and penury and many communities experiencing an upsurge in crime rates.
Faced with challenges of hunger and incessant daylight robberies, members of Ajeromi Ifelodun community recently took to the street to protest against hunger and threat to their lives and property.
Ajeromi-Ifelodun, according to the chairman of the Community Development Association, Tunde Balogun, is populated with low income earners who survive on daily income, reason they are quick to feel the biting effect of the lockdown.
‘With this third week into lockdown, things are getting worse’
He said, “This is the third week into the stay at-home order. Things are turning from worse to worst. Our people are complaining of hunger while able-bodied young men who have been rendered idle with the lockdown have taken to armed robbery invading homes and breaking into shops.
“Since traders among them cannot open their shops to trade, they decided to stage a peaceful protest to register their displeasure. But the truth is to stay at home is for the benefit of every one of us. It is unfortunate that some unscrupulous elements among residents, have taken to robbery and unleashing terror on members of the community. It is better to go hungry for a short period of time than to be afflicted with the coronavirus disease.”
A victim of robbery attack in Ajeromi community, Shakirudeen Abdulwasiu alleged that the culprits that are responsible for the robbery attacks on them are residents of neighbouring streets.
“We are in panic mood in the entire Ajeromi Ifelodun community. If you had been familiar with happenings in the community before the lockdown of activities, you would have known that the community is notorious for armed robbery incidents.
“But the situation worsened with the restriction. When the Area Boys, bus conductors and drivers are idle, they engage in robbery activities. They feign argument and street fighting and before we know what is happening, they invade houses and stores and start robbing us of our valuables. We have complained severally to our traditional rulers and the police but they have not done anything to address the challenges.
“Just yesterday, around noon, they came into my apartment armed with guns and machetes and carted away my home appliances.”
‘Robbers go from one house to another with POS gadgets’
The atmosphere in Ifako-Ijaye LCDA, according to the secretary of the Community Development Committee, Ogbabi Fatai, is scary.
According to Ogbabi, armed robbers have since Saturday invaded the community and simultaneously raided Harmony Estate on College Road in Ifako Ijaye, Elliot Street, Agege-Cement, Capital Road and Mangoro road carrying POS to rob members of the community of their monies and property.
“The robbery has been going on for days. They have been going from house to house robbing people of their valuables. We can’t sleep because of frequent gun shots that rent the air. The robbers not only come in the night; they now rob in broad daylight. We live in fear and not able to sleep at night. Some of us have constituted ourselves into vigilance group to man our homes from 9pm till dawn because you never can tell when they would come around.
“There is a new dimension to the robbery situation. They move in groups of about 20 or more with POS machines with guns and machetes. They force their way into your house and request for your ATM cards and password, slot it into the machine and withdraw any amount they find in your account,” he said.
Also commenting on the wave of crime across communities in Lagos State, the Chairman of Igando/Ikotun Community Development Committee, Ademola Osibeluwo, disclosed that it has not been easy coping with domestic needs for many members of his community but residents have to comply with the government directive.
‘Government must be proactive on possible ways out’
He said, “About a week ago, the Lagos State government distributed food items to residents in Ikotun community. Although it might be little, we are glad we were remembered.
“Normally people will complain of hunger because of scarcity of money. The economy had not been that favourable even before the outbreak of coronavirus, but this is not a justification for anyone to go into crime.
“Commercial bus drivers and conductors earn daily income but rather than lack, they operate in the evening for few hours with which they feed their families.
“The government should be fast about the policy to be adopted because people are suffering. The little food items they distribute cannot solve the problem of hunger confronting the people. They should be more proactive and decide on the best way to solve the crisis. If this continues, people will regress into crime as we have seen in some communities.”
Some members of the virtual world also shared their experiences on the lockdown.
On his twitter handle, @Svnkanmi described the lockdown as a death sentence. He said hunger poses more threat to masses than the coronavirus.
He tweets, “On a day-to-day basis, a lockdown is basically a death sentence and unfortunately, hunger is more pressing threat to these people than the coronavirus.”
Also, @BhadGyaIYada tweets “For the people to fear hunger more than the virus shows how much our leaders have failed in every sector.”
While @mindkraft said he is not surprised about the cry of hunger, he said, “No planning for the poor and vulnerable. Law enforcement agents prevent people from selling and buying food items on the outskirts of Abuja, while those of us in the city can go to Shoprite to buy bread.”
Meanwhile as the situation continues to bite harder on Lagos residents, a traditional ruler, Ojora of Ijora and Iganmu kingdom, His Royal Majesty Oba AbdulFatai Aromire, said before the country gets to this critical stage, the Federal Government ought to have put a measure in place that would ensure the wellbeing of the masses.
He stated that when the people are already feeling the heat of the lockdown for two weeks, he quizzed, “what do you think will happen in the weeks ahead of the lockdown?”
To douse the negative impacts of the stay-at-home order on his subjects in the Ajeromi-Ifelodun LCDA, the traditional ruler distributed food items and other cooking ingredients to residents.
He said, “This is not the first time I’ve engaged in this kind of act. I felt distributing food items at this critical time is very important to alleviate the suffering of our people. There is hardship in the land already but if care is not taken, the coronavirus diseases will worsen the situation.
“With the lockdown of activities in the state, many people have turned to beggars while others take to armed robbery. They beg for money and food to feed.”
Also lending his voice to the call for a better welfare package for the citizens is the head of Otumara community in the Lagos Mainland Local Government of Lagos State, High Chief Kehinde Kalejaiye, who said countless number of people throng his residence daily since the lockdown to beg for food and money.
He said, “People are crying of hunger. They now rely on us to feed and to take care of their domestic needs. Between last week and today, I cannot count the number of people that have come to me begging for money to feed. This is inhuman. How would they cope during the lockdown? The government cannot force the people to stay at home without making any provision for them to feed.
“But when they dare the government order to go out, they are arrested for violating the order. Let the government ensure that the people get the stimulus package to have something to eat.”
How lockdown is affecting us —NURTW
Among the worst hit are commercial bus drivers and the National Union of Road Transport Workers toll collectors known in the local parlance as ‘agbero.’
Lamenting the impact of the stay-at-home order on their daily income, Secretary, NURTW, Brown-Afijalo unit, Sulaiman Ismail, said the lockdown has affected sales of ticket as commercial buses are restricted from operating in the state.
According to him, the communal lifestyle in the Oshodi community has been helpful in solving their hunger problems as he said “We live a communal life in Oshodi. Everyone brings in what he can afford and that is what others feed on. So, as far as feeding is concerned, we don’t really feel that we don’t work except that we don’t have money in our pockets. The lockdown is affecting us. There are no passengers and our tickets are unsold. Commercial buses in the parks are not allowed to work. The situation is the same in all parks across the state. Many of us earn our living daily at the park. If we do not work in a day, we are broke. I pray they find the cure to the coronavirus on time.”
Law of survival more pressing than ever —Professor of psychology
Reacting to the lockdown of Lagos and Abuja with its associated pains, a University of Lagos professor of psychology, Professor Oni Fagbohungbe said with the lockdown the government intended to preserve the lives of the citizenry but ended up inflicting pains and hunger on the generality of the people due to lack of planning and adequate implementation.
He said, “The government did well by wanting to preserve and protect the lives of the citizenry but what arrangement have they made for the generality of the people in terms of having access to their source of incomes?
“The implication of this is that hunger provokes violence and other vices. The government should have been proactive. We are paying the price for our past neglects and nonchalant attitudes, lack of planning and when you plan, lack of implementation.
“The government is now trying to bring in beds and equipment in the face of health crisis. What happened to the vast budget of every year? Due to hunger, able bodies will take up arms to commit crimes. They will break into shops to be able to feed.
“There is law of survival that states that when something is pushed to the wall, if its life is threatened then it will fight back. There will be breakdown of law and order should this continue unabated.”
Government rolls out palliatives
The Lagos State government is however not unconcerned about the plight of the people especially the challenges surrounding their inability to work at this period due to the lockdown. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in order to address the challenges, has rolled out more palliative measures for vulnerable residents who might be affected by the ongoing lockdown.
Medical bills incurred by patients admitted into public secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities for the duration of the lockdown will be offset by the Lagos State government for pregnant women and other categories of patients in emergency, casualty cases, laboratory testing and surgeries as well as the cost of any medication bought at the state-owned secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities during the period of lockdown.
Also, following complaints about the poor distribution of the food stimulus package, the governor ordered a review of the process for distribution to positively impact on the lives of beneficiaries despite initial hiccups.
Sanwo-Olu further reiterated his government’s commitment to security of lives and property, warning hoodlums to desist from taking advantage of the restriction order to disturb the peace as the security agencies have been instructed to ensure 24-hour security surveillance across the state.
The government also stated that an additional 250,000 vulnerable persons already identified in social registers of the Lagos State Residents Registration Agency (LASRRA) would be getting conditional cash transfer as a form of support for them in the period of the lockdown.
Those that will benefit from the new stimulus food distribution will include religious bodies, traditional worshippers, ethnic groups, political parties’ members, artisans and members of tertiary institutions within the state while the governor further approved three-month moratorium on MSMEs loan worth N2.8 billion.
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