Our COVID-19 travails: How Nigerians are coping with hunger, cash crunch

MARUF OLAKUNLE and KOLA OYELERE write that many hitherto comfortable Nigerians are currently going through hardship, while most others are living from hand to mouth with hunger starring everybody in the face on a daily basis.

NOBODY prepared for the situation that most parts of the world are presently experiencing. Not even in anyone’s wildest imagination was it thought that the whole world would be in a lockdown for months, not least Nigerians, as it is being experienced today.

By this weekend, virtually all states in the country had recorded at least one case of COVID-19. Before last Monday, Kebbi State was spared but despite that the state government has set up a task force up a task force comprising no fewer than 25 members drawn from the public and private sectors, including members of security agencies.

The committee was headed by the state Commissioner for Health as the chairman. Apart from the committee, other measures recommended restriction of human and vehicular movement in and out of Kebbi State. Markets were also to operate only from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.

However, all these measures were not enough as a COVID-19 index case was eventually recorded last Monday when a 40-year-old man who had just returned from Lagos tested positive for the virus and was promptly isolated at the Kebbi Medical Centre in Kalgo. Forty people who had contacts with him have also been isolated.

Across the country, though states are reviewing the measures they had put in place so that the ordinary citizens do not suffer unduly, there is no doubt that the damage had been done already.

Mohammed Sani is an Abuja-based businessman with a fleet of cars. He had several dependants and persons working under him. However, today, his business is literally in ruins. To survive, he relies practically on friends and the goodwill of his business partners.

Sani is not the only one in this condition. Doyin, who operates a viewing centre in Ibadan and other small businesses by the side now has an empty, deserted hall where no activity has taken place in the last two months. His finances had stretched thin as all forms of entertainment, especially football, have come to a halt and government has insisted on social distancing to keep people from spreading coronavirus.

To survive, he now works as a porter offloading bags of foodstuffs from trucks that have brought them. At the end of the day he at least goes home with some cash and sometimes some raw food items shared among the off-loaders.

A notable Kano-based businessman, Alhaji Hadi Al-Mustapha, in an interview with Sunday Tribune said most people in Kano State survive on menial jobs, suggesting that the lockdown should be reviewed because many are suffering untold hardship due to the coronavirus disease which has effectively put many families in financial quagmire.

Alhaji Mubarak Saliu, a resident of Brigade Quarters in the state capital, said “if you interview most Kano people, their reactions would be that they are hungry. We do not have money to buy foodstuffs, even when they are available. Prices of foodstuffs have gone beyond the reach of the common man in the market.”

The reality today is that a lot of businessmen are living from hand to mouth as most are currently experiencing financial hardship. To take care of their families has become a problem. One of such men is Mr Jamiu Afolabi, a Sokoto-based car dealer who shuttles between Sokoto and Lagos to bring cars for sale.

“This thing is getting out of hand; imagine someone stagnated here for weeks without having opportunity to travel or reinvest. I normally go to Lagos to buy cars for my clients from which I get my little, little benefits.

“The issue of this COVID-19 which has been followed by series of lockdowns here and there has seriously had a major negative impact on us. I pray that this pandemic should just go away so that normal business activities could commence.

“It has started affecting a lot of things and our prayer is that God should help us on it while our government should even double their efforts at tackling this issue. Many families are finding it hard to feed themselves in this period and as you can see, things have to change, otherwise…” he added.

In Zamfara State, many residents are aggrieved that the distribution of the palliatives promised by the government has been poorly handled just as prices of foodstuffs have now hit the rooftop.

A notable community leader in Gusau, the state capital, Alhaji Musa Maimai has however, advised the Federal Government to review the mode of distribution of palliatives as residents who are supposed to be the targeted people have not been reached and are literally dying of hunger.

This is however at variance with government’s position that over N1 billion worth of foodstuffs had been purchased for distribution to the people during the Ramadan period across the state.

Special Adviser to the governor on Media, Communication and Public Enlightenment, Mallam Zailani Bappa, said the efforts were in line to make adequate arrangements to cushion the hardship being experienced by residents in the state.

 

—Additional stories by Ayodele Ajoge and Attahiru Ahmed Gusau.

 

 

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