Ahead of the imminent review of the lockdown imposed on the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), the Nigerian Medical Association has advised the Federal Government to again extend the lockdown, which ends on Monday (tomorrow).
This, the association said, would help to contain the rapid spread of the coronavirus disease. It added that with the “exponential” rise in the number of cases recorded across the country daily, people should not see the lockdown as a punishment but a necessary measure to contain the spread of the deadly virus.
It, however, stressed the need for fair distribution of the palliatives to cushion the hardship the restriction had caused Nigerians.
But the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture; the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association; and the Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr Muda Yusuf, opposed the possible extension of the total lockdown, saying the government should consider the partial opening of the economy.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Mr Boss Mustapha, had maintained that only the President could decide on whether there would be an extension of the lockdown or it would be lifted.
The DG also said on Tuesday that the President would make tougher decisions in the coming week on measures to contain the spread of the virus. He, however, advised Nigerians to be prepared for the tougher directives.
Already, there is increasing tension and impatience among people in the affected states and the FCT over the possibility that the lockdown might be extended.
The Director-General of LCCI, Yusuf, who spoke in his personal capacity, said even though the lockdown was laudable to contain the spread of the virus, the sustainability had become a matter of concern.
He, therefore, advised that the government should consider the option of a partial lockdown.
Already, there have been rising insecurity, especially armed robbery, in some parts of Lagos and Ogun states, forcing the people to cry out for help, while some of them resort to keeping vigilance on the streets to ward off the thieves.
Yusuf said, “Lagos, for instance, is highly cosmopolitan, very mobile with a high velocity of business transactions. About 50 per cent of the Lagos economy is made up of the informal sector. One of the main features of the sector is that the operators live by the day. Keeping such a commercially active population indoors for a month is a great challenge.
“Neither the Lagos State Government nor the Federal Government has the capacity to manage the social consequences of a prolonged lockdown – hunger, restiveness and insecurity.
“This is why a long period of lockdown may not be sustainable. The context of a problem should define the prescription. An extension of the lockdown beyond the four weeks is not advisable.
“The option of partial lockdown should be considered. This should be preceded by a robust COVID-19 risk assessment. This should guide the targeting of the lockdown. Different economic activities present different vulnerabilities. In all cases, the observance of the COVID-19 protocols should continue under a regime of a partial lockdown.”
On their part, the Association of Small Business Owners of Nigeria said if the government felt constrained to extend the lockdown on account of the rising cases, it should come up with better palliatives that would get to the target audience.
It said government should ensure that the youth, elderly people and those who depended on daily income but could not go to work now should be targeted as being done in other countries.
The National President of the association, Dr Femi Egbesola, said, “In the priority scale, health comes before wealth and at any point in time, it is better to prioritise health. If the lockdown is what is good for us now as a nation, even if we have sacrifices to make, it is better we cooperate. It’s only those who are alive that can do business, so our being alive is the topmost priority.