The Coronavirus disease remains one of the most devastating pandemic ravaging the world and creating lasting impacts. As the number of cases increases globally the effect is beyond a public health crisis as the economy of both developed and developing nations have been brought to a halt. More devastating is the impact of COVID 19 in developing countries like Nigeria, experiencing the pandemic amidst a struggling economy and poor health system. Before the pandemic, Nigeria was projected to have more than 40% (representing about 82.9million) of its population living below the poverty line as revealed in the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) report covering the period of September 2018 to October 2019.
With an economy just coming out from recession in 2016 and struggling to manage its unemployment crisis coupled with the increase in insecurity, Nigeria’s economy was not ready for the pandemic. The pandemic required a prompt response, which included tough lock-down measures with grave implication to the economy. With the Government adopting strict policies to prevent the spread of the virus, the dangers of such strict measures were apparent.
On the one hand, was the threat in the increase in the rate of poverty in a country where about 80% of the population rely in the informal sector which also consist of daily wage earners, and other hand was the effect of a prolonged lockdown leading to more people disobeying the lockdown order to find a means of sustenance hence risking an unprecedented increase in new cases in an already overburdened health system. It became a battle between ‘staying home to be free from COVID-19’ or ‘going out to be free from hunger’ and for most people, the latter was the safer decision.
For citizens, the task for the government was simple; enforce measures that prevent the spread of the virus while ensuring that the people do not starve to death. With the confirmed cases still on the increase by the end of the first lockdown order, President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday, April 13, 2020, announced an extension of the lockdown order for another period of 14 days in Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). This he explained was due “alarming increase in the number of states with positive cases.” At the time, 19 states and the FCT had reported coronavirus infections, with 343 confirmed cases, 91 recoveries and 10 deaths as at 13th April 2020.
Almost all the states had enforced either partial or full restriction of movements. For the next phase of lockdown, the president committed to ensure that the distribution of palliatives continues as a means of reducing the economic hardship caused by the pandemic especially for those who live on daily wages. In addition to the efforts by the Federal Government, State Governments also embarked on distribution of palliatives with some legislators also taking initiatives to reach out to the most vulnerable.
Religious bodies, Private sector and philanthropists also joined in the efforts to reach out to the poor. For the second reporting period, Yiaga Africa deployed and received reports from 128 monitors spread across the 36 states and the FCT. Some reports suggested that with the extension of the lockdown came the increase in demands for basic needs, which were met with an unusual and consistent hike in prices of most food commodities. No doubt the restrictions may have impacted the food supply chain and may have resulted in a shortage.