By Michael West
Times were hard before the Covid-19 pandemic, but as the global scourge appears to be “technically defeated,” the reality out there shows that times are now harder as all is not well with many families economically. They endured financial hardship, hunger, sedentary lifestyle and culpable fear of the pandemic for four months.
Tales of frustration, anger and despair pervade the land as people are trying to recover from the Covid-19 forced break. Not a few Nigerians have turned emergency beggars while hoping for possible succour coming their way. They are groaning under the burden of debts, obligatory bills and responsibilities. Added to the already depleted incomes are the school fees as students gradually return to schools in phases.
A private nursery school teacher was in tears while narrating her pathetic condition occasioned by the lockdown to a prospective benefactor in a viral video. She told the woman that she was sick and tired of her condition of living. “I have slept with several men and I’m tired of sex. I feel ashamed of myself as I have practically become a prostitute. Even my children feel so odd whenever I brought men home to sleep with me as a means to earn money to feed.”
Her story was touchy and sad. I appreciate the maturity of the person that recorded the video because her face was not captured in the video. This is the condition of many single moms during the lockdown. Several single women cried for help on social media while the shy ones sought help quietly in their own way. Private school teachers are among the worst affected people by the lockdown.
Last week, it was widely reported that Mr. Governor, Babajide Sanwoolu of Lagos State rescued a man who was about to commit suicide on the Third Mainland Bridge because of his inability to pay a N500,000 debt. The governor gave him the money to keep him alive. Since that incident was reported in the media, I have received a number of calls asking if I can facilitate their (callers’) access to the governor to obtain similar succour. Things are really tough out there.
On Tuesday, a 45-year-old father of three said he was considering “disappearing” from his home. “If I disappear and I’m nowhere to be found, helpers, even the government may come to the aid of my family. As long as I’m around, nobody will consider us for support. This is the time we need palliatives the most. Sir, we are seriously hungry. I struggle to feed my children once a day. I have stayed two days without solid food while my children ate three packs of noodles as the only meal for a whole day. How long will I continue with this beggarly lifestyle? My wife has lost weight. I can’t continue like this.”
According to him, his wife teaches in a private primary school (they are yet to resume) while he worked in a corporate service company. “When the lockdown was extended for another 14 days, most of us were placed on compulsory leave without pay with a proviso that ‘We will communicate to you after the lockdown.’ As we speak, less than 50 per cent of the workforce was recalled to work. Upon inquiry, we were told that ‘severance allowance’ will be paid to us before the end of the year.”
I’m bothered on how people in this condition will be able to pay their rents, utility bills and feed their families. Our government seems not perturbed about the wellbeing of its citizens. Otherwise, how do we explain the upward adjustment of the pump price of petroleum products twice in a few weeks? In addition, stamp duty is being imposed on the jobless and hungry Nigerians as a ‘welcome package’ from Covid-19 lockdown. These are apparent indices of insensitivity on the part of the government.
Many families struggled to survive while the lockdown lasted, but Nigeria’s minister of humanitarian affairs claimed that over N500 million was spent on school feeding programme during the lockdown. I can’t imagine that a sane mind will contemplate such a brazen fraudulent idea at that period and got the president to approve it. Even when there was no pandemic, the school feeding programme was a colossal failure. It was designed to enrich some people using the programme as a conduit pipe.
Nigerians are wonderful people. We are humane, kind, generous and helpful. Many really proved to be their neighbours’ keepers, and, indeed, friends in need. Palliatives in form of cash, food items and groceries were shared by some politicians, corporate organisations, religious bodies, some government agencies and in particular, public-spirited individuals who sacrificed so much to support their neighbours, family and friends. Some celebrities also shared money to their fans and followers on social media as contributions to ease their condition of living.
However, a section of Nigerians was paid N20,000 each in April for what was later discovered to be monthly stipends they have been receiving since 2016. The N20, 000 was for four months, January to April. While this was going on for more than three years in some parts of the north, the stipend was not extended to the south. Favours dispensed by the federal government to a section or region above the other parts of the country will continue to breed discontent, hate and widen the gulf of division in the polity.
As a way to mitigate hunger, pay choking debts or loans and to meet some pressing personal or family needs, valuable belongings like vehicles, household items, lands and houses are being put up for sale at ‘give-away’ prices. Many of those that applied for government’s incentive for agric businesses through the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, are still on the waiting list. Some have received notifications for being shortlisted for interviews as a prelude to getting the loans. Months after, not much seems to be happening, no thanks to official bottlenecks and ‘settlement’ syndrome of the officials who allegedly do demand for gratification as an impetus to “push” or “process” applicants’ documents.
Many Nigerians are hungry, angry and jobless. Stimulus measures promised by the government to entrepreneurs across business levels should not delay in coming.
Covid19: Hydroxychloroquine as Treatment or Cure?
I am not a medical expert. I have no authority to cite or qualified to pontificate on the efficacy or otherwise of over-the counter-therapy, OCT, drug, hydroxychloroquine, which has been described as prophylaxis (preventive or protective medication for diseases). It is also claimed to be effective in the treatment of the much dreaded Covid-19.
Since the United States based Dr. Stella Emmanuel dared the powers and principalities in medical and pharmaceutical professions by declaring that Covid has a “cure,” hell was let loose. She has been harshly criticised and vilified for her “unprofessional” conduct and “unethical” utterances. Even those who do not know anything beyond paracetamol joined the bandwagon of her critics.
Simply put, in hospitals, isolation centres and convalescence homes across the world, hydroxychloroquine is being used with other drugs in the treatment of COVID. This is a statement of fact that even her critics admitted. Her offence is that she dared to pronounce the word “cure” instead of treatment. In an interview that went viral last week, the interviewer challenged her for claiming a “cure” for COVID and she responded pointedly.
Sometimes experts are part of our problems. Agreed that there are no approved curative prescriptions for COVID yet, but patients are being treated and discharged from isolation centres. If a COVID-positive patient later turn negative after the treatment, is the person cured or not? This simply means the virus has been eradicated in the body. I pray God will deliver us from those who play games with human lives for their economic interest and anti-humanist agenda. Amen! Stay healthy always.
“I struggle to feed my children once a day. I have stayed two days without solid food while my children ate three packs of noodles as the only meal for a whole day. How long will I continue with this beggarly lifestyle? My wife has lost weight. I can’t continue like this.”