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Still on defiance of lockdown order

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PHOTO: PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

This is the second time we have commented on Nigerians’ curious defiance of the lockdown order to prevent transmission of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic that has shut down the whole world. It is curious that there has been no improvement since we commented on appearance of traffic in Lagos, the economic capital of the country.

Nigeria’s capital Abuja and two States – Lagos and Ogun – were, about three weeks ago, locked down for an initial two weeks by President Muhammadu Buhari. There has been an extension to another two weeks, which will expire tomorrow. There has been so much agitation for even some partial restriction and relaxation of the painful lockdown from tomorrow.

Consequent upon the foreseeable health hazards, the Federal Government decided to give some directives including the restriction of entry/exit and movements in the three earlier mentioned areas of the country. Some other state governors have announced their own mode of restrictions.

In spite of the efforts of both government and non-governmental organisations to ensure compliance with Mr. President’s directives, not a few people in the locked down areas of the country have been violating the orders. And this cuts across all classes of individuals. So, why are people not obeying the directives as we once asked?

Efforts at finding answer to the question have thrown up several reasons that motivate defiance of the presidential directives. Some of such factors hinge on lack of viable preparation prior to the commencement of implementation of the directives. There are socio-economic factors, misrepresentations, family issues, infrastructure, indiscipline and even, lack of serious sanctions.

As we noted earlier, most Nigerians are not economically empowered to cope outside the proceeds from their daily economic engagements. They have no savings or reserves they can draw from to run their affairs if they comply with the directives. People are therefore forced, by such circumstances, to defy the order in search of their ‘daily bread’. Acting otherwise will be a self-sentence to hunger, begging, frustration and perhaps crime.

Another critical factor is misconception. Most people believe that COVID-19 is a decease of the elite who always travel abroad. Quite a number of individuals have this unfortunate and unfounded misconception. With such a mindset, they believe that they cannot be affected. Which is why maintaining social distance as directed worldwide has been a joke to most people here.

There is also the challenge of non-functional social infrastructure like electricity. The prevailing hot season in the country is a contributory factor. This has been worsened by urban, regional and rural planning disorder with the way and manner houses are built, which has impaired free flow of air. Those who are used to finding solace outside their homes have been among the early violators of the directives ostensibly to save themselves from the inclement home environment.

There is hardly any doubt that several Nigerians have become used to being at social environments very regularly. They are fond of patronizing nightclubs, sports and other relaxation centres. Their joy and happiness are incomplete without such indulgence. No week is considered good enough without an experience at such social outings. This is also one reason people are not found in their homes as expected despite the devastating effects of the pandemic we see even in the most powerful nations.

Sight must not be lost of the fact that there are a number of undisciplined individuals in the country. Most times, they can be very restless for no other reason than to display their congenital indiscipline. Such are the intentional troublemakers. As long as their personal interest is served, they will rather follow the dark alley. Surely, they will be among the deviants at a time as this.

There are those who believe they can always beat the rules or systems by hook or crook. They are the ones that forge documents including permits for persons on essential duties and assignments. They will always impersonate amid a culture of impunity. They will always be found among those on the streets disobeying the COVID-19 directives.

The authorities should note this lesson now: where there are no serious consequences for disobedience, people naturally do not mind taking a chance. For instance, even the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory advised the Mobile Courts to give mild sentences by avoiding jail terms because of congestion at correctional centres. This is an encouragement to recalcitrant people.

So, as the authorities ponder over review of the state of management of the pandemic tomorrow, this newspaper would like to advise them to consider overriding public interest. It is not a political situation. It is pure science. It is a matter of life and death. It is a matter that should not be considered because of loud protest nurtured by whims and caprices of ignorant unionists who want us to perish for lack of knowledge. There should be proper consultation with the presidential committee members and National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) as the number of confirmed cases keeps rising daily. Even the need to manage the strange development in the commercial capital of the north, and most populous state in Nigeria, Kano is a critical factor. Any carelessness in this regard can spell more disaster for Africa’s most populous nation. We call for caution, reason and respect for scientific facts at this time. Meanwhile, the authorities should note too that the way they have been managing their welfare and relief package for the poor in our midst should be reviewed. People are saying there is absence of transparency and equitable distribution at the moment. So, until the poor can go to bed peacefully, the authorities should not expect compliance with their directives. As some people told this newspaper in a report yesterday, “hunger obeys no order”.


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