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Friends Helping Police Survive Pandemic Lockdown

It’s been spreading like wildfire over the past couple of weeks, spreading from person to person, and country to country.

The coronavirus, yes — but also the mutual aid meant to combat it amongst other precautions. And even as one of the most recommended precautions of the virus is social distancing, we all need to help one another get through this pandemic, giving what we can to neighbours and strangers alike.

In this interview, The Guardian Life speaks with a group of friends who decided, out of norms, to feed 100 security personnel daily till the end of the lockdown.

The friends with an enthusiastic police officer

Can we have a quick introduction of who you are?

We are a group of friends who share the same values and are passionate about effecting change in the small spaces we find ourselves in and with the little means we have. While we have other team members, Jennifer Anuiyiagu, Tumi Adeyemi, Evelyn Chukwuma and I, Lawretta Egba, are the core players championing the project. Jennifer is a professional chef that owns the food brand known as The 1k Meal and the brand partners with companies in the private sector to provide affordable meals for their staff. All the meals are prepared by the brand and a team of amazing volunteers like Chiwendu and Mercy Chukwuma, and we also have several everyday individuals who have contributed in cash or by providing key resources to us. We’d like to think that it is one big family.

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You and your friends decided to feed 100 security personnel every day for the next few days of the lockdown. What pushed you to operate out of the norm?

A close friend had put forward the idea over the weekend and we decided to act on it. We told a few friends about our plans and by Monday afternoon, we were already on the streets of Lagos sharing the food packs. What really propelled us was that while the government and other entities made and announced plans to offer relief packages to different members of the society, we noticed that very little attention was paid to those who had the mandate to protect us and enforce the lockdown orders. More so, knowing that local food sellers were not going to be able to operate within the state for the duration of the lockdown, their chances of obtaining affordable meals were low and we sought to bridge that gap.

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Why are you passionate about the police?

In all honesty, many of us have had our fair share of tussles with the police and other uniformed men and women. The tension between the citizenry and uniformed men and women over time has taken a turn that almost projects the latter as oppressors to everyday individuals like ourselves. We felt the need to change the narrative by showing them love and support, while also communicating how similar we all are. Just like us, they have families, friends, needs, dreams, and so on. We figured that to drive change, we needed to stop pointing fingers and take the responsibility of effecting the kind of change that we desire – which is essentially a community where there is harmony between uniformed men and women and the citizenry. As the saying goes, the police is your friend.

Describe your experience with the police so far

Personally, it feels surreal. It often gets emotional. It is normal to regard these people as being against us or out to get us. As young people in Lagos, we are the usual recipients of the different cases of abuse of power by these same group of people. The experience has shown us the side of their humanity! Many of the people fed have commended us – some even prayed for us, explaining their usual neglect. Of course, a number of them have been pensive and defensive; some want to know what our endgame is and it’s a little sad.

A police van with meals from the group

How have you been staying safe as you are required to go out to give out the meals?

In simple terms, we follow the script. The COVID-19 pandemic is not one anyone of us anticipated but it is a reality we all have to face and adapt to. Our safety requires that we take on measures to ensure that the curve is flattened. From ensuring we stay kitted – face mask, gloves and alcohol-based sanitizers, to ensuring that we don’t have more than 2 volunteers in one car moving around distributing the meals, we do all we can to stay ahead of the game always. In our engagement with security personnel at the checkpoints we get to, we follow a standard procedure by having one volunteer approach the leader of the team to get consent and to know the number of men and women that need to be served.

What challenges do you face following up with this cause?

Well, in the past week since we started, we haven’t exactly faced challenges. We simply wish we could do more. On some days, we have had to cut the number of people fed down to 70 personnel because we didn’t have the required funds to reach our mark. But every day, more people are interested in the cause and contributing towards it. We intend to do this every day until the lockdown ban is lifted and we are also hopeful that more people will choose to be a part of this dream.

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