By Fred Latimore Oghenesivbe Esq.
I read Prof Charles Soludo’s elaborate analysis of the socio-economic implications, and how Covid-19 Lockdown and stay at home orders may trigger mass genocide in underdeveloped and developing economies. I saw reasons to align with some of his fears and the socio-economic dangers ahead, if we continue to Lockdown boarders and make our people stay at home, as potent measures to prevent the spread of corona virus in Africa.
I was heavily intoxicated and socked in Soludo’s keg of intellectual and scholastic liquor that I almost forget the very essence of his paper. He dealt with everything and anything African leaders and state governors need to know as far as Covid-19 Lockdown is concerned.
His thesis synchronized the triangular relationship between Covid-19, Hunger and Global Economic Recession. Soludo was not economical with the truth; and did say that African countries can not afford boarders lockdown and stay at home orders because of the fragile economy of member States and huge funding required by governments to sustain short or long term Lockdown. His views must not be politicised, we must think through issues raised and provide answers to some of his questions, if not all the questions.
Is it not true that African countries cannot fund boarder lockdown and stay at home orders? The bitter answer is YES. We all know that most, if not all Africa countries, are heavily indebted to either World Bank, WB,or International Monetary Fund, IMF, or other financial institutions around the globe. The Paris Club is one of such big time benefactors. Poverty in Africa and Nigeria stinks to high heavens and even though we claim to be “The Giant of Africa,” we still have little or nothing to show for it. We are still struggling with basic infrastructure development, talk less of having enough reserve to fund boarder lockdown and stay at home orders.
It is a fact that some state governments in Nigeria, still struggle to pay salaries and pensions; they are in huge debts and may never be free from self inflicted debts. It is unrealistic to depend on wealthy citizens to feed a state or a nation. It sounds crazy and it will never work. At best, some folks with future political ambitions may dole out some peanuts backed with heavy media publicity to create awareness for their future intentions. This is not the way to go. The few wealthy individuals cannot and will never be able to feed all citizens on a three square meal per day basis. Therefore, the funds remain essential scarce resources.
Government does not have the required financial resources to keep people at home, and the few wealthy individuals, majority of them are politicians. These slick political actors cannot and will never sustain palliatives for as long as government may want the Lockdown, to save lives. It sounds unrealistic for government to depend on corporate citizens and individuals to fund boarders lockdown and stay at home orders. This can never be the ideal solution, in as much as we want to protect our people against corona virus inflections.
The federal government and the states do no have the financial war chest to assist businesses to bounce back after lockdown. Daily income earners constitute over 80% of the working population, and government cannot make up for the economic losses. The lockdown is also affecting government revenue generation and foreigner earnings from crude oil sales. With barrel of crude oil at $5 or $10; as a result of Covid-19 Lockdown, implies that there shall be budgets and jobs cut across board, public and private sectors. This is certainly not good for African counties due largely to the ever rising poverty pandemic. To avoid this ugly scenario, the Trump Administration earmarked $2 trillion to cushion the effects of Covid-19 pandemic in the United States of America. Nigerian government cannot afford the huge financial implications associated with lockdown and stay at home orders.
Sustained Lockdown and stay at home orders will certainly snowball into acute hunger that may even claim more lives than Covid-19 pandemic. Slow and excruciating death via hunger is much more painful than that which is caused by the virus. Therefore, It is not the best option to lockdown boarders and keep people at home with little or no deliberate plan to guarantee consistent supply of palliatives. Our fragile economy will drop to zero and life will become unbearable, if we continue to Lockdown boarders and make our people to. stay at home.
Hunger will naturally increase crime rate as negative reaction and dare need for survival. Security personnel are yet to be trained on how to arrest and prosecute hunger, so that citizens don’t get hungry during Lockdown and stay at home orders. Hunger is invisible and torments the individual’s soul, body and spirit. The only cure to hunger is food; and lack of it can lead to public disorder, breach of public peace and anarchy. Hunger has the capacity to fracture peaceful coexistence and can even make some citizens to disobey laws and orders in an attempt to survive in a hostile environment occasioned by boarders lockdown and stay at home orders, especially when not backed by consistent and adequate palliatives, and other incentives from governments.
There are small businesses that are operating on bank loans which must be serviced, lockdown or no lockdown. And government will not assist private companies to repay loans with interests during Lockdown. These reasons were extensively discussed by Prof Soludo in his masterpiece on the need for Africa. Countries to immediately unlock boarders and revoke stay at home orders.
It follows that the federal and state governments must narrow focus on COVID-19 preventive measures and enforce compulsory wearing of masks in public places. Social distancing, regular washing of hands with soap and running water, frequent use of alcohol based sanitizers should be enforced such that public and private sectors activities can become active and functioning in full capacity, once again.
We pray and hope that governments across Africa, come to terms with socio-economic realities of today, and see reasons why our people must immediately to go back to work. Hunger and depression are certainly not good combinations. Governments in Nigeria and Africa must do the needful to ensure that we return to work, while at the same time enforcing preventive measures to fight against the spread of COVID-19.
Governors in Nigeria, may send executive bills on COVID-19 preventive measures to Houses of Assembly, so as to give teeth to the enforcement, especially the compulsory use of face mask at work and public places until total eradication of corona virus from Africa and indeed, Nigeria, is achieved.