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COVID-19 Encounters: Lockdown or not, people will go out to look for food

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Monday, April 8, 2020. Alimosho Council, Lagos. The time was 10:37am. The sky was pale and the thick clouds hung in the air. Quite a large number of people were inside thinking it was going to rain. But it didn’t. The foggy weather soon disappeared, pleased that its presence was felt. Sunday was dry too. The sun had flared down to the roads of the suburb, drying up the muddy paths that rain created on Saturday.

You’d feel the horror of the lockdown on Idimu, Igando, Ikotun and Egbeda streets in the council area.

Though the main road was free, but in some of the inner streets such as, Adeolu and Asiawu, Daniel Ebodaghe, Orelope Goddylove and Akinwunmi Koosemani, you would still see people bunched in fours and five discussing and some even playing draught to them, it’s another ‘NADECO’ sit at home. Okada riders were still operating on the streets, even though they were discreet about it. Their fares were rather high.

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You could count the number of people outside the long stretch of road to Alimosho Hospital, Igando and Ikotun Market. A few people were on the road.

But the streaming crowd in places where food and illicit gin, popularly called paraga, were sold, would make you query the social distancing regulations, which have been repeatedly announced as a key prevention measure against the virus.

The market was so filled that when you throw pebbles up, they wouldn’t come down. By 10:40am, alot of people were already there to buy foodstuff.

But you won’t blame people who rushed to the market. At the many food distribution points, the crowded queues would make you ask, was the state government genuine about the palliative to the over 200,000 households, especially in the council area? The large crowd in Ikotun Market this morning was a sign of potential explosion bubbling under the surface.

Drink, drink, drink everywhere
Although food and beverage companies are exempted from the lockdown, distribution and consumption of alcohol has increased considerably. People now drink alcohol to wipe away the pains of being locked down. Forget government order that clubs and bars be shut.

Mrs. Ifeoma Okagbue, a food seller on Idimu Road, Ejigbo, told The Guardian, “I stopped preparing food when I noticed that customers were not coming to it. They now prefer to drink alcohol. Paraga sellers are winning. You will see men at popular joints drinking than eating food.”

From Ile –Iwe Bustop in Ejigbo to Ponle in Egbeda and across the state up to Lagos Island, you will see people gathered to drink jedi and opa enyi. Many of them can’t afford the sudden rise in the cost of beer.

At the popular Chemist Busstop at Ejigbo, a bottle of Trophy Lager Beer that went for N200 before the lockdown is now N250.

Iya Ibeji, a beer seller at the popular Church Busstop, Idimu Road, told The Guardian that things are extremely expensive now. “We are finding it difficult to replace what we have sold,” the woman, revealed.

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Kunle Oliyide, a bricklayer, who lives in a two-room apartment on Asiawu Street with his family, since the lockdown has turned drinking of illicit brew a favourite past time. He drinks every aphrodisiac available — Osomo, Ogidiga, Original man, Sapele Water, Ashietu and Alomo. And whenever he has had his fill, he engages in one argument or the other.

Anytime Iya Ibeji refused him drink, he is always creating one scene or the other. He doesn’t care about social distance. He doesn’t even know what it means.

“They locked us at home like prisoners and they gives us prisoners food as palliative— one bread and akara. Those who are fortunate, they get cooked rice,” the 44-year old man said.

His voice changed and drawled when The Guardian asked him how he was staying safe. “One thing will kill man,” he said.

He is not the only person holding this thought. Saheed, a vulcaniser, popularly called Vulgar believes that COVID-19 is for the rich. He doesn’t even observe any of the hygiene. “It is not Coronavirus that will kill us. It is hunger. We are hungry,” he said.

The place is always crowded with people who are drinking paraga.

Although in different countries across the world, people are adapting to the self-quarantine instruction, in Nigeria, it is business as usual. The only challenge is that you have to pay more. Everything now is more money.

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