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Can Nigeria Afford Another Lockdown?

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Street in Lagos Island Deserted During the Lockdown (Photo credit: AA)

Since recording the first case in February, the coronavirus has continued to spread like wide fire across Nigeria. As of July 22, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has recorded 38,344 official cases and 813 deaths.

The pandemic and subsequent lockdown across the country has left negative effects in its wake. People have had to contend with both mental readjustments to the new normal and economic hardships in a nation just recovering from a 2016 recession.

The sudden crash in the oil market further aggravates this crisis. The revenue flow from oil in 2020 has been projected to decline from ₦5.5 trillion to ₦1.1 trillion. This has resulted in skyrocketed food prices and poor families struggling to make ends meet. The  palliatives provided by states and federal governments have only greeted the average Nigerians with high, desperate, and empty hopes for some sort of financial succor.

Given the country’s population of over 200 million people, the increase crimes across the country is no surprise. Just as millions of people who live on daily wage are expected to face untold hardship, in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus by flattening the curve, another version of it – crime – has been set loose

However, this grim narrative is gradually tilting towards the edge of improvement and the once gloomy economic climate is now beginning to brighten up. The ban on interstate travels as well as the strict imposition of lockdown has now been lifted. The country’s working population is now returning to work while small and medium scale business owners are reopening their businesses.

This does not suggest a decline in the number of cases. More testing laboratories have been set up across the states of the federation, and more cases are being identified as a result. Currently 52 centers are now spread out throughout the country. While this is commendable, it is still not enough. The government must work towards a broader testing capacity to ascertain scientifically workable data and keep track of progress in the fight against the virus. We need to understand the virus and how it affects the nation. This suggests that Nigeria must find a unique, workable solution to contain the spread of the virus while keeping the economy running.

Indeed, the world has changed in many ways. But there are grimmer impacts that cannot be accounted for. Many have lost their jobs, crime rates have increased while many more are battling depression from economic and social uncertainties.

It is enshrined It in the constitution of our Nation, section 14(2b) that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of the government. The country cannot afford a second phase of the lockdown. The effects would be devastating. This is why the government must as a matter of duty work pragmatically towards ensuring securing lives and livelihoods of citizens.