THE NEWSGHOST, NIGERIA – Towards the end of last month, following the steady increase of confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19), various leaders prohibited large public gatherings. From sports events to hangouts, and even worship centres. People were urged to avoid crowds.
But one of the few types of gatherings which is inescapable is that of markets.
On March 24th, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the governor of Lagos, during a short press release, declared the shutdown of markets and shops across the state. Soon followed Ondo, Tarababa, Abuja and Ogun; though the latter two amended this to a sales curfew recently.
All these were made to the exception of the sales of cooked food, medicine and water.
In the case of Rivers, however, there might have been a bit too much zeal. At the end of last month, Governor Nyesom Wike announced a complete closure of markets in the state, beginning with the highly commercial Oil Mill and circulating to others. This comes as a response to the state’s index case confirmed on the 26th of March.
While the governor’s intentions to prevent the spread of the virus is commendable, many argue that the enforcement is overkill. Residents of Rivers were ordered on short notice to “stock up” pending the enforcement.
Since then, task forces have been sent out, with some going as far as applying violence.
While noncompliant residents would be berrated, it is of importance to note the plea of the state’s poorer side in defense of this.
There are countless residents whose primary subsistence derives from petty sales, without which they are altogether helpless. These traders, launching outcries on radio and other media platforms, also have customers who lack the ability to keep the governor’s warning due to lack of funds; people already put on edge by the resulting price hikes.
Will the death toll in Nigeria in these times of coronavirus be compounded by secondary factors?