The effect of Coronavirus, the global pandemic that has held the world to ransom, claiming some two million lives in top countries, such as USA, China, Italy, Germany, etc., and raising serious fears about the fate of Africa, cannot be easily quantified as the ruins are still counting, putting all on tenterhooks. The world health system is in shambles, businesses asleep, religion, on compulsory holidays; sports and entertainment world on hold, while the world has gone on lockdown trying to shut out the evil guest that sprang up from Wahum in China in December 2019.
As Nigerians watched coronavirus spread like wildfire across China, into Europe, wreaking serious havoc in Italy, UK, Spain, Germany, over to USA before looking towards Africa, the virus since declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, WHO has assumed the image of a sledgehammer crushing anything it attracts. Since crossing over via an Italian, the country has been in a panic to stop a massive infection fully conscious of the fact that its long abandoned healthcare system is in too dilapidated state to fight any battle.
Thus, as coronavirus touched Abuja and Lagos thanks to the failure of government at the center to shut the borders, states began to shut down their borders and lock-in the citizens. For the generality of Nigerians, survival is dependent on daily labour so shutting them indoors without alternative means of survival translates to condemnation to hunger. It has also triggered panic buying, inflation, suffering and pockets of agitation from a very angry citizenry attracting brushes, some fatal, with security forces assigned the duty of effecting compliance with the lockdown.
The restriction of movement, lockdown of businesses and social gathering like the closure of mosques, churches, cinemas, clubs, market, and compulsory social distancing amongst individuals, use of hand sanitizers or regular hand washing are some preventive measures taken by the Nigerian Government to attack and stop the spread of the Coronavirus in the society.
Rivers State was one of the first states to adopt the measures following the confirmation of a coronavirus case in the state.
With barely two days’ notice, the directive created panic buying and high inflation making it difficult for the poor who normally have little or no saving, to make necessary purchases. Consequently, the sit-at –home policy has brought about hunger in the state and left people struggling without full success to obey the command to help prevent the spread of the deadly virus. As the lockdown progressed, there are cries of so much hunger in the society, with calls on government to produce palliatives to citizens to cushion frown on individual faces and also brings about crime as the masses crying out for help despite the deadly COVID-19 virus.
National Point’s Gift Jonah contacted some community members in Rivers State through phone chats and visited some communities especially at the Eneka axis to register their experiences complying with the lock down.
What is your name?
My name is Queeneth, a resident of Eneka Community.
In this Eneka community, in terms of security, is there any police harassment on individuals?
I have not experienced any at present; it was last week when they said market should open between 7am and 12 noon, before I came out to the shop, I heard that Taskforce went to Eneka market maybe after the allowed time they should have sold in the market. Though I didn’t experience any in my environment as I went to Oil Mill market that day, the two days Tuesday and Wednesday that market was allowed to open from 7am to 12 noon, I now thought Oil Mill market will open too, so I went there, but I didn’t see anybody. I went back to town and they said they went to Oil Mill Market and the taskforce were chasing them; that Oil Mill was not supposed to be open. It is a market that has other people coming from other states.
You heard about government palliative, that they are going to support the masses. Is there anything like that in Eneka?
I will not know; I have not heard anything but one of my neighbours yesterday was talking about sharing of pasta that is macaroni. So I don’t know if it is only macaroni they shared. He said the governor sent some things that the only thing that got to his own family, his wife and children is macaroni. In my own case, I don’t know if anything got to my family. The man also said if they haven’t shared it here in this part of Eneka maybe later they will share but in their community Rumusita in Eneka where he lives, that they gave them pasta (macaroni).
Social distancing, how do you keep it with your family, do you sanitize?
Normally it’s not really easy to do that when you have family, not really easy to keep that but at least, everybody is aware of the situation, so you have to really try, it is not easy. Everybody is trying to keep up – wash your hands, have your sanitizer at home. The one in my shop, whoever comes in, you use sanitizer, almost every time you are washing and using the sanitizer just to make sure you are safe. But it is difficult for someone to maintain social distancing even in Keke (tricycle), entering of public transport, you will still see them carrying full load. Ok, now nose mask; that I don’t know how much it is used but now it is so expensive. I didn’t by anyone but I had some at home that a friend gave to me some pack and then I also made some local ones from native Akara for myself and few members of my family.
Everything is just so expensive, a small sanitizer that ordinarily shouldn’t be more than N250, you see on at N750. Things that were cheap before, things are really skyrocketed even in the market. Everybody is taking advantage of the situation by hiking their prices, making it so expensive, at the end of the day, they are making the poor people not to be able to have things and be unable to afford some certain things for themselves.
In your family, how many are you in a room?
It’s not a room; it is my father’s house. In a room, am just the one and I have my sister and her baby, myself, my own room, my mother’s room, my father’s room, our house-help too, so just the five of us.
So it is the spacing you are observing?
No, it has been like that from the beginning and then there are other buildings in the compound, my elder brother’s building a three- bedroom apartment, himself, the little kid too, his wife, my younger brother’s family too, we are really keeping safe distancing, there is actually space.
It seems you have a little more than others. You know, there are people that are facing a lot of challenges because of the lockdown. What are the challenges you are really facing?
What I am facing truly, is my business because we are supposed to be indoors but thanks to God we don’t have that kind of restriction for now. The situation is not that difficult for now in Rivers State. So the only challenge I face is that I don’t have customers because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, people don’t have need for my business right now. I make caps, I sell clothes, somebody that has not eaten to come and look for clothes? Even this Easter period wasn’t like Easter period because people did not come to ask for things. It is only somebody that has eaten, that will come and look for cloth. Ok, see a small rubber of garri that was N500, now is N1500, so somebody that wants to buy just small rubber of garri will now be thinking of buying shoe? They will manage what they have; it has really affected me in that aspect and as also affected me in the cost of things that have increased.
Mrs. Evelyn Austin from Cross River State, who resides at Eneka
Security has not really affected our environment. But concerning keeping social distancing, even if the government said you should not crowd, you cannot exempt your family.
But I know most times we have to follow they called it ‘wisdom is demanded’, at least you have to follow the principles- what they asked you to do. But there is no how no matter the distance that they are saying you should keep, to avoid your family. The distance is maybe somebody that is not staying inside the house. I know most times you have to follow all those things, the conduct, follow everything.
The sanitizing, how do you do it in your home?
Like in my house, if I cannot afford the normal sanitizer, at least, maybe let me say if I finish here and enter into my house, I have to use water with soap to wash my hands, or if I want to do something, especially I leave my house and go out as soon as I come back, even if I forgot, my husband will first tell me, ‘wash your hands’ before any other thing.
The government palliative, like relief materials for the people is there anyone sent here to Eneka?
I have not seen o! I wouldn’t lie to you, it was only when I went to Igwuruta on Monday, I heard a lady telling me that they said they shared rice and Indomie but I have not seen it on this side.
Don’t you have challenges at all? With the lockdown, there must be some challenges facing you?
The shutdown is just that you find out that there is increase in the prices of things. Most times you go to buy something; what you expected, you cannot buy at that rate. Like maybe this spaghetti, I sent my girl to go and buy yesterday, normally they will buy it N3,850, but I was surprised when she came back yesterday and said is N4,800. I asked her, are you sure? She said yes. I know in this area there is a very big difference concerning the way we buy things before; it has a very big difference.
But what about feeding, the hunger, are you 100% okay?
Nobody will tell you that. No matter how rich you are, you will never tell somebody that you are ok, so nobody will tell you that he/she is ok but at least call it that we are managing because there is nothing you will do, you have to adapt to it, you have to manage anyhow you can, the situation; nobody will tell you that I am 100% okay. No! you have to manage it anyhow you see it; if you wake up in the morning, then you see the morning own, you take it, if you don’t see in the afternoon, you tell God thank you; everything worketh out together for good.
In this lockdown, at times people might fall sick, is there any person in your family, among your people that is sick that you are not able to take to hospital, like because there is money?
Like in my house we hardly fall sick, so for now we don’t fall sick.
Mrs Irene Promise Chukwu, woman leader Rumuwule community in Eneka
No police harassment in our environment except in the market. People selling in the market have been chased out. The police scared them away for them to go out of the market, that they don’t want anybody in the market. The police harassment only affected the market, beer palours, etc.
Did government bring anything as palliative to the people in Rumuwule community?
Yes they brought rice and macaroni but we poor people did not see rice in my community. Rumuwule women meeting, we only saw one carton of macaroni; that is what women shared, no money, no rice, just one carton of macaroni that they brought to Rumuwule women. Nothing like money was added. Maybe the rice goes to big men and but we poor people only saw one macaroni carton for Rumuwule women.
Concerning the social distancing, how do you keep it with your family?
Yes, I keep it. When I come to my shop here, if I want to attend to people, I have to wash my hands then sell to them. After selling, I will go inside and sit down, I don’t like too much crowd, thank God my business is not gathering crowd. If I finish in my shop, I go to my house, I have my car, I don’t join public transport with anybody, I make sure am secured.
In your house, how many are you in the room?
It’s only me, I have three children and we have each room per person. The toilet and bathroom, everybody has his/her own we don’t share anything.
In terms of challenges, what are your challenges during this lockdown?
What is affecting me is, we don’t go outside; we don’t go to market to buy things and sell, no way to go to market. If you go to Oil Mill Market now, you can’t buy anything to come and sell, so we manage up the one we have before the COVID-19 started or if we see shop that has what you want, you go to the shop and buy. In terms of money, if you don’t have, you manage up, we cannot go and beg. Since there is no market, nobody will give to you, where will you go and beg? We manage up, and that is what we are saying that government is supposed to help us, give us a good food at least, and help us for small money, for us to use and buy things to eat, since we are not going out. We don’t have anything to eat and when they are bringing the food, they brought macaroni, one carton for the whole Rumuwule women! We shared one carton of macaroni, where will that reach us?.
Is there any sick person in your family during this lockdown? Because when things like this happens people are likely to fall sick.
No sick person
Madam Charity Nweigwe who resides at Eneka
The challenges plenty, no food to eat, no money, even if you have money what to buy we don’t see. Go to market you see them pursuing both the buyer and the seller; they will arrest both of them together.
Like the government palliative, I no hear am self, and concerning the social distancing, I dey stay inside the house. I no come out since morning, this is the time am coming out. Sanitizing my hands is for when am coming out, I wash my hands with soup and water. For health, no sick person, I am alone, as for my children no one is with me now.
Another Eneka Resident (Name withheld)
As for the crime rate, there was a robbery incident in Obunabali, World Power Road, Rumuwule, Eneka where robbers were trying to open the door of a resident to vandalize