In apparent response to growing pressure from citizens and the economic realities of the time, President Muhammadu Buhari, has in a nationwide broadcast on Monday April 28, announced a partial relaxation of the lockdown imposed on Lagos and Ogun States, and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Under the lockdown regime first imposed on March 30, 2020, residents of the affected areas were restricted from leaving their homes, except in well-defined emergencies.The relaxation of the lockdown now means that persons in the affected areas are only allowed to move within their State and only within the period, 6:00 am and 8:00 pm effective from Monday, May 4. They must however wear face masks while in public places. Further details of the relaxation of the lockdown is expected to be announced by the relevant agencies of government shortly.
The new restrictions announced by the President also require that persons across the 36 States of Nigeria, who were not previously affected by any lockdown are now caught by it. Kano State that has seen an exponential increase in fatalities and infections will however come under a 24-hour lockdown. The President had been under intense criticism from citizens who worry that the lockdown imposed at the national level and by some State Governors, appeared to be without a strategy. “Beyond the lockdown, what’s the plan?” has being the question on the lips of several Nigerians since the COVID-19 restrictions came on board at the end of March. For a lot of citizens, the question is, what plan does the government have to address the pains of its people under the lockdown and how does the government plan in the long term, to repair the damages being wrecked on the economy by the impact of the lockdown and the collapse in oil prices. Nigeria’s economy is a mono-product one, depending almost wholly on export of crude oil, which currently sells below production cost.
Around the world, countries are working out measures to begin a restart of their economy, while managing to keep a handle on containing the coronavirus epidemic.
Within the African continent, Ghana and South Africa already announced plans to relax their own restrictions, while others like Senegal have made significant strides in managing to contain the spread of the disease. With Nigeria, citizens are concerned that beyond the lockdown, nothing tangible appears to be on the table, in terms of a government strategy to tackle the spread of the virus or address the looming economic crisis that the country is already beginning to be confronted with.
Observers had questioned if Nigeria could afford a continued lockdown in light of its economic realities and diminishing government revenue and are worried by a situation described by experts as an ‘economic pandemic’, which may be imminent across Africa if restrictions persist.
Of course, lifting the restrictions will not be without its risks. Citizens and the government express concern over community transmission and the rapid increase of confirmed cases in the country, which have exceeded the 1,000 mark. The ability of Nigeria’s health system to manage the pandemic is very weak and the government’s idea of a solution appears to be a wait for a vaccine or cure to be found from outside sources.