Coronavirus and lockdown are the two most used words in Lagos today. For a state under a presidential lockdown, it is a tale of different strokes as reported by KEHINDE AKINSEHINDE-JAYEOBA and SUBAIR MOHAMMED.
Despite recording the highest number of coronavirus cases, residents of Eti-Osa Local Government Area of the state have continued to flout the stay-at-home and social distancing orders imposed on the state to contain the spread of the deadly virus, Saturday Tribune was told by one of the community leaders, Alhaji Rafiu Ajadi Aro-Lambo.
Except for a few businesses and shopping malls that were shut, when Saturday Tribune visited the area, which has the highest official number of infected patients, there were free flow of human and vehicular movements, just as people were seen by the roadside around Jakande Roundabout engaging in trading activities unhindered.
Also seen defying the stay-at-home order were commercial bus operators, who also flouted the social distancing order by carrying four passengers on a row and having their buses filled to capacities. Private car owners were also having a field day along the routes under the nose of policemen who appeared unconcerned with the development.
Saturday Tribune findings showed that in spite of Eti-Osa having the highest number of suspected coronavirus infections with 47 confirmed cases, many residents insisted that the disease, contrary to claims by the state government, is restricted to communities populated by wealthy people.
Secretary, Eti-Osa Community Development Committee, Alhaji Rafiu Ajadi Aro-Lambo rejected the notion that Eti-Osa is the hotbed of coronavirus in the state. He described as misleading, the official attempt to label the entire Eti-Osa Local Government Area as the home of the disease, noting that the state government should have been mentioning the specific communities that are affected by the disease.
Aro-Lambo identified the affected communities to include Lekki Phase One, Lekki Peninsula, Victoria Garden City and Chevron Estate.
He said: “It is misleading to say that Eti-Osa is the epicenter of coronavirus in Lagos State. I take exception to that because we know the locations of those that have been affected by the disease. Coronavirus cannot be found in communities like Ologolo, Ikate, Ajiran, Mayegun, Aro, Gbara, Igbo-Efon, Baruwa and Idado but because coronavirus is a foreign disease imported into the country by travellers, you can trace it to such places like Lekki Phase One, VGC, Chevron Estate and other communities populated by rich people.
“If the government declared Eti-Osa as having the highest number of coronavirus cases, I tell you they are referring to such areas as Lekki, VGC, Chevron Estate and others. The disease is not and cannot be found within our communities. We have not heard of any breakout of coronavirus in our communities, but with the way they are flouting the stay-at-home order, the rich people are threatening our existence by wanting to spread the disease to other parts of Eti-Osa.
“For those of them that are infected, if they unknowingly transmit the disease to their domestic workers who patronise the common markets with us, we could be infected, you know. I am appealing to our people to stay at home to avoid being infected with the disease because we patronise the same markets with them. At the meat and grocery markets, we bargain for the same commodities. And if they are infected with the disease, they could infect these commodities without us knowing. We can only pray to God to keep us safe and then abide by the stay-at-home order of the government. They are the cause of the disease and they have refused to stay at home to avoid spreading it.”
A resident of Jakande Estate, Jubril Wasiu, advised the state government to lock down the parts affected by the coronavirus and not the entire Eti-Osa community. According to him, if the affected residents are secluded, then there would not be fear of them spreading the virus or infecting other residents.
He said: “They have refused to disclose the locations of those that have been infected with the virus but as residents in the community, we know what goes on. I want to advise the government to lock down Lekki, VGC and other estates that are populated by the rich. They are not being fair to us by telling the world that Eti-Osa is the home of coronavirus. We know this is not true.
“I have not been out of the country but I am at the risk of contracting the virus if they come around me. So, to prevent this from happening, tell the government to lock down the communities of the rich and prevent them from coming in contact with other residents.”
On why the rich flout the stay-at home-order, head of COVID-19 tracing unit in Eti-Osa, Dr Temitope Balogun, said it was as a result of “their overbearing mentality.”
She stated that considering the number of coronavirus cases in Eti-Osa, one would think that residents would be the first to adhere to the sit-at-home order but with the number of motorists on the road, they were not complying with the state government’s directive.
Dr Balogun said: “They are making our work very difficult. The general feeling is that they feel they have to go out for their daily bread. They have to feed and earn a living. I don’t see why this should apply to Eti-Osa any more than anywhere else. The desire to work and earn a living is a general thing but considering the increasing cases of coronavirus pandemic in the local government, one would think they would be the first to observe the stay-at-home order.
“The reason Eti-Osa people are not staying at home is not known to anyone. It has nothing to do with hunger or poverty. It has to do with the mentality that ‘I can do it and get away with it’. In the inner areas, people are coming but on the main roads, who do you see? Private cars belonging to the rich and they are responsible for bringing in the virus in the first instance. Coronavirus is not a disease that is indigenous to us. It was imported into the country and the Lagos State government, supported by Eti-Osa Local Government, has done a lot to contain the spread of the disease but residents, especially, the rich who flout the stay-at-home order are making our job very difficult.
“For those of us at the COVID-19 tracing unit, we are supposed to use the period of the lockdown to trace a lot of contacts but we realise that when you call some of these people, you will find out that they are not at home and these are the people that have had contact with some of the positive cases. Why they are not complying is not what you and I can address.
“I think the government really needs to extend the lockdown so that we will go to the inner communities, and from house to house, in search of people with multiple symptoms of COVID-19 and we take further necessary actions. There are so many people that have been exposed to the disease through so many ways. Therefore, we can’t limit it to those travelling alone. They have closed the airports so we can’t say it is from those that have travelled anymore. Our case definition has changed.
“That was one of the main criteria they were using before but that has been sorted out now and people have so intermingled that it is difficult to say that is the only criterion but now we are adopting the active case search and the only way to do this is to keep people at home.”
There is a folklore about a man called Lebanje and his daughter. Both had needs but despite being family, their needs were different. While Lebanje was crying for money, his daughter was crying for husband. This scenario aptly captures the prevailing mood in homes in Lagos as the lockdown ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari entered the home stretch.
Mrs Gbadamosi Florence, a resident of Olorunto in Agbado Oke Odo Local Council Development Area, would wish the lockdown is forever. The lockdown has locked her always-away husband at home with her and she couldn’t wish for a better gift from the president.
”I was almost losing my marriage before the lockdown. My husband, a commercial bus driver, was no longer coming home, using one excuse or the other. But since the lockdown began last week, he had no choice but to stay at home. I have used the opportunity of the lockdown to raise some issues with him, concerning our relationship and we have been able to forge a common ground,” she stated.
Except for married women whose husbands were caught by the global lockdown in another land or state in Nigeria, the consensus of opinions in Lagos State is that the lockdown has done homes more good than bad like in the case of Mrs Gbadamosi, only that the dwindling pockets of their husbands is a major concern. A popular joke in the already-over-populated state is that the lockdown will result in a lot of ‘corona babies’, considering the assumption that what wives have been celebrating as a swell time with their husbands is mostly sex and romance.
Ifeanyi Eze, the chief executive of a logistics company located at Iyana Ipaja, enjoys having more time with his wife but he can’t take his mind off what will ensure the sustenance of the newfound romance: money.
According to him, the lockdown afforded him the opportunity to get closer to his wife of a year. “It’s been honeymoon part 1, 2 and 3,” he said excitedly.
Eze has obviously enjoyed every bit of the lockdown but he is eager for the lockdown to be over because his food supply is depleting. “I need to restock my food store. I need money to get all these things but with the lockdown, there is no logistics business,” he lamented.
Lagosians needed it
The paradigm shift of a buzzing lifestyle to a quiet one sounds welcoming to many, especially with the notion that residents need to rest from the ever-busy lifestyle. Mrs Idowu Lademo, an accountant at a private mechanical company, was green with envy when civil servants were directed by the state to stay at home following the closure of schools and public offices before the president eventually shut the entire state down.
“I couldn’t wait for my company to ask us to stay at home, too. I really needed to rest. Since the governor banned the movement of motorcycles and tricycles, I have practically been trekking from home to work because I usually took tricycles to work. I had been in and out of hospital since then. When the president announced the lockdown, I was filled with excitement. This is the break I have been longing for,” she said.
Days into the lockdown, expectations become reality but while some are welcome, others are more than bargained for. As the social media provides distractions to endure the compulsory 14-day lockdown, individuals recount what may likely be once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Mr Collins Agbor, a 30-year-old civil servant, said the lockdown had enabled him to understand the volume of house chores done by his wife daily.
“I now appreciate all mothers out there, especially my wife, for efforts in taking care of the home. If her efforts can be quantified in monetary terms, I am sure she would be earning quite a good salary by all standards. I now know that taking care of children, especially toddlers, is a real work. My three children aged two, four and six play a lot. You have to shout at them countless times. You have to watch them so that they don’t injure themselves. Ah! Women are trying,” he stated.
But Jimoh, a mechanic who sometimes engages in commercial transportation in evening between Iyana Ipaja and Oshodi, is already fed up with the lockdown. For him, the earlier the period is over the better for his relationship.
”What is in a relationship if you don’t have the resources to oil it? I have been home for days now due to the directive and I can tell you that the only time I seem to have enjoyed the lockdown were the first few days.
”Yes, it was a period of bonding and of being together but the lockdown seems to be taking its toll on my pocket and the family’s economy. You will agree with me that there cannot be genuine bonding where money is absent,” he said.
But for Femi Oladipupo, a lecturer in one of the private polytechnics in Lagos, the most important thing for him now is staying safe and ensuring that his family members come out of the crisis period unscathed.
According to Oladipupo, who lives in the Ketu area of the metropolis, the lockdown affords him and his wife the opportunity to rejuvenate their eight-year-old union.
”I lecture while my wife runs a garment shop somewhere in Idumota. I go to work every day, including weekends, while my wife only has Sunday to stay at home. That is why for now, we can’t find the lockdown boring because it has given us the opportunity to be together for the first time in a long while,” he stated.
‘Lockdown is honeymoon for us but…’
The challenge of 35-year-old Afolabi at this time is the fact that the lockdown is denying him some of those things he indulges in outside the house without the knowledge of his spouse.
”For instance, I smoke cigarette but my wife does not know I do that. There is no way I can indulge in such a habit now since she is the type that can smell a rat from afar. She would perceive the smell even if I go out to smoke. The development has made this period a trying one for me,” Afolabi, who is in the employ of the state government, lamented.
Reports said men like Afolabi with hidden habits are coming up with ingenious ways to beat the odds when they are around their wives. In a particular estate, most of the married men are said to have formed the habit of having their phone calls out of the sight of their wives, using the excuse of running their car engines daily to forestall any damage from lack of use for 14 days. Such men are said to be involved in infidelity though a couple of them claimed that they usually moved out to receive their calls in their cars because it was noisy inside the house due to the presence of the ever-playful children like those of the Agbors. Most women insist the men are engaging their “side chicks,” (girlfriends) who they could not visit in the course of the lockdown and could only engage by phone.
Saturday Tribune learnt that men who don’t want to have issues with their wives simply abandon their cars to avoid suspicion. Some men are also said to have moved their base to their security gates where they spend hours with the estate security while making and receiving their calls there.
A resident of one of the estates said: “The look my wife gave me after I called her attention to the fact that many of our neighbours now ‘warm’ their cars daily (run the car engine) and stay long inside talking on their phones has discouraged me from picking my keys to warm my own car.”
‘All death na death’
While some wives worry over their husbands’ secret calls and motives during this lockdown, for others, it is a choice between being killed by hunger and being terminated by the virus.
Casmir Nwachukwu is a junior officer in one of the new generation banks whose grade level falls within those that have been asked to work from home. According to him, what most people seem not to be talking about is the rising cost of food items. As the lockdown continues, the amount of money households spend every three days on foodstuffs simply increases.
“As I adjust my expenses to be able to feed my family, COVID-19-induced market forces also adjust the general price level. A 50 kilogramme of garri which sold for N8,900 in March now sells for N10,500. Twenty-five litres of palm oil bought at N9,000 two weeks ago now goes for N9,500 and a medium-sized new yam which we bought at N700 a day before the lockdown is now N1,200. I just discovered that almost 60 per cent of my savings have already gone into foodstuffs. In fact, if the lockdown is extended, most middle-level workers with large families will have to borrow to feed them,” the banker told Saturday Tribune.
Investigations reveal that as panic buying continues across Lagos even with non-food markets shut, there are fears that prices of agricultural products are likely to increase as a result of rising demands as the planting season commences.
A market research conducted at the end of March by a Lagos-based finance and investment research firm, Financial Derivatives Company, showed that though palm oil and Semovita prices remained flat, the price of yam went up by 28.5 per cent due to seasonality and panic buying. Also, sugar prices were up slightly by three per cent due to panic buying.
Mr Kehinde Daniel, a plumber residing in Ejigbo, Lagos, said it had not been easy to manage finances at this period when there is no guaranteed income.
On palliatives, he said it was shameful that at a time when countries like Canada are giving out about N760,000 ($2,000 at N380/$) a month as palliatives, a Nigerian senator is giving out two loaves of bread with his customised label. According to him, the government wants citizens to stockpile food items but it is those who have enough money that will do that.
“I earn my income on a daily or weekly basis. What amount of foodstuffs can I stockpile from daily income that will last a family of four two weeks. What I do is to call the people I know within my community to see if they have one plumbing work or another to do. It is when I am lucky to work that I can now buy more foodstuffs. The stay-at-home order is a joke,” he stated.
He added that many artisans and other Lagos residents may be forced to come out in search of daily bread, lockdown or no lockdown.
“All death na death,” a woman hawking smoked fish said in pidgin English as she meandered between two yellow buses.
“If I stay home, I will die of hunger. If I come out to hustle, you say I will die of coronavirus. There is nothing we have not seen and we are still here. We will survive this, too,” she said. She added that the palliatives circulating on social media were like film tricks because there had been no sign of any help from government in Mafoluku Oshodi where she lives.
‘No extension, please’
The fear of extending the lockdown beyond 14 days has put panic and apprehension in the mind of many, especially traders who rely on daily sales for their daily bread. Olumide, a second-hand wares trader, told Saturday Tribune that the government should heed their cries and allow them do some trading at the expiration of 14-day lockdown. According to him, he has depleted the merger savings and has been buying food for himself and the family during the lockdown. He said: “If the government extends it, where will I get more money when I have spent all I had? I don’t even want to think about it. Who do I run to for help when even those who might help are even complaining that they have spent a lot to provide for their families during this lockdown?”
Adewale Akinbami, an accountant in a private firm, is of the opinion that an extension of the lockdown will be risky for individual, families and the society. He noted that it would be survival of the fittest as some companies might go out of business, causing salaries to stop and seeing more employees get sacked as hunger bites harder.
Palliative initiative misconstrued –Commissioner
The Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, fumed over reports that residents are shaming government and leaders over palliative distribution.
He said: “Some of our colleagues are making mountain out of a mole hill. The way I was trained during my days at the Guardian, when there is a mob action, a journalist must stay above the fray and detach himself from it so that people can see what is going on because people depend on him to find their way.
“What is it? This programme is very clear. It was done out of compassion for the poor and the needy and not out of compulsion. The governor made it clear that this thing was for the underprivileged, the people at the bottom of the pyramid, the poorest of the poor. People who cannot fend for themselves are the ones that we targeted for the lockdown; that they may not have to fend for themselves. They must be assisted and that we were going to start with 200,000 households and we made it clear that these were the things we were going to give them, five-kg garri, five-kg rice, beans, pepper, tomatoes and all that. We said all of that.
“Now, politics has crept in and our own journalists, too, they want to be hyping the PDP guys, parroting them. Two hundred thousand households. Not the whole of Lagos. We are not making it as if the government is going to feed everybody. The government never said so. The government never said it was house by house. If the government was going to do that, it would have said it was going to feed 22 million people. I don’t see how the government is going to do that.
“This is a programme that is novel. This is the first time we would have it. There is no way you can rule out hitches here and there. We are using religious leaders, community associations, councilors. These are people who should know the poorest of the poor in the society. But like everything that has human factor, you cannot expect 100 per cent success. We knew that this was something that had not been done before. We were going to do it now and there would be some faults. There would be some mistakes due to some hiccups here and there.
“Now, a section of the political class wants to use it to embarrass the government. For every bad video that we have seen, we have tens people who are praising and praying for [Governor Babajide] Sanwo-Olu because it didn’t go wrong all over Lagos. And don’t forget that we didn’t say we were going to feed everybody in Lagos. We said we were targeting only 200,000 households and these households comprise father and mother and four children and not everybody in Lagos State.
“So, the journalists, too, are mistaking it. It is not that every street and every home would have it. If you bring it to my home now, what will I do with it? If you bring it to my area, who would collect from you? Nobody. So, let us, as journalists, be cautious about it. Let us be reflective about it and not parrot it like politicians are doing.”
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