Lockdown: Hunger, poverty escalate as food prices rise

Posted by News Express | 17 April 2020 | 572 times

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•President Muhammadu Buhari

Initial opinion was that Nigeria does not have the capacity to lockdown its economy in view of it weak infrastructure, lack of structure and reliable statistical data. However, President Muhammadu Buhari on March 30ordered a 14-day lockdown of Lagos and Ogun states, and the Federal Capital Territory to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic. He has extended the lockdown by another two weeks. This report examines the lockdown challenges and concludes that the developments point to the fact that Nigeria was not ripped for such costly but necessary adventure

 

COVID-19 vs Hunger virus

In a report by Fredrick Nwabufo, a writer and journalist, he noted that a country like Nigeria with complexities and deplorable socio-economic indices, imposing restrictions on movement for an extended period of time — asphyxiating the economy and pauperising small businesses – is Siberian. “As it is, we cannot afford an extended lockdown! Lockdown measures are not sustainable,” he said.

According to him, due to Nigeria’s complexities and parlous indices of armies of the poor and the unemployed, it is a defective idea to lockdown the country for an extended period of time.” We cannot import wholesale the approach of other countries, much more advanced than we are, without care for our own unique situation and expect things to work out,” he stressed.

Robbery gang ‘One Million Boys’ attack Lagos, Ogun residents as beggars visit homes for food, money

Less than 24 hours after Nwanufo’s warning, reports of armed gangs attacking residents of Lagos and Ogun states emerged, the criminal were said to have hijacked the lockdown directive of President Muhammadu Buhari to prevent the spread of coronavirus, invading houses, shops and unleashing mayhem.

The hoodlums, said to be members of robbery/cult gangs known as Awawa Boys and One Million Boys, reportedly invaded neighbouring suburbs of the two states since last weekend, subjecting residents of the areas to untold harassment and intimidation after which they carted away huge sums of money and valuables.

The areas affected include Meiran, iju-Ishaga, Alagbado, Abule-Egba, Sango, Ifo and later, Agege-Pen Cinema, Dopemu, Iyana-Ipaja area, and Gowon Estate. However, their attacks were stalled by members of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), and youths who confronted them, with support from local vigilante groups, before the arrival of policemen.

Aside the criminal incidents, residents reported visits in their homes by baggers, who were asking for food or money.

Nigerians call for distribution of donations, palliatives to those affected by lockdown

Against the backdrop of rising criminality and baggers in Lagos, a development which is expected to worsen as the lockdown bites harder, concerned Nigerians have criticizing the government for not making its palliative available to the residents of Lagos, Ogun and FCT; the states President Buhari ordered a lockdown.

Even as the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Umar Farouq said only the extremely poor Nigerians will benefit the N20, 000 cash transfer, how she arrived at her 11 million Nigerians out of the over 90 million Nigerian listed by the World Bank to be living in extreme poverty; has been a subject of controversy.

Reacting to the criticism, Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, said the Federal Government cannot share funds donated by the private sector to fight coronavirus to Nigerians.

This came as the over 90 million Nigerian poor, especially the ones resident in Lagos, FCT and Ogun states who are the hardest hit by the Federal Government’s lockdown order, have been demanding government intervention to help them buy food and other necessities and further calling on government to share the donations by rich and corporate Nigerians to the COVID-19 Presidential Taskforce for the Control of Coronavirus

According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the minister gave reasons why the donated funds cannot be shared to citizens when he featured on “Politics Nationwide”, a Radio Nigeria programme, on Tuesday.

Responding to a request that a part of the funds be shared to Nigerians to cushion the effect of the lockdown on them, the minister said the funds are meant for the development of healthcare infrastructure and cannot be used to provide palliatives.

Mohammed said the Presidential Task Force for the control of coronavirus neither had the money nor was in control of it, and cannot share a penny from it to anyone.

‘The private sector donors are not giving any cash to the Federal Government and they have made this clear to the people,” he was quoted to have said.

“They said they will support the fight against the pandemic by asking government where they want healthcare infrastructure to be provided.

“What government has done is to request them to build a 30-bed isolation ward and a 10-bed Intensive Care Unit in each state in the country.

“In addition, the Federal Government has given them a list of equipment and commodities that will also be needed

“Therefore, the issue of using their donations to provide palliative cannot arise.”

Measures to cushion the effect of COVID-19

Mr. Lai Muhammed said in addressing the issue of palliatives, every country adopted a peculiar strategy that was workable and acceptable.

The minister said the Federal Government had taken a lot of measures to cushion the effects of COVID-19 on Nigerians, including food distribution, cash transfers, and loan repayment waivers.

He said Nigeria was leading and remains the best in Africa in the area of provision of palliative to citizens as the world battles the scourge.

Despite Muhammed’s claim, experts say the economic impact of COVID-19 on the millions of Nigerians who rely on daily wages, particularly in Lagos, has hit residents hard. The shutdown exempts only critical workers, including those selling food, water and medicine, but has left many without money to buy food and other essentials.

Videos have circulated on social media showing armed robberies, fires and small riots in some Lagos neighbourhoods throughout the week indicating that the people have reached their breaking point.

Earlier on Monday, the police said they would deploy additional units to Lagos and Ogun to tackle unrest and crime stemming directly from the lockdowns.

The Lagos State government has been distributing food packages to 200,000 of the state’s most vulnerable households, and plans to double the aid.

Buhari did not address the unrest specifically, other than saying he urged the security forces to “maintain utmost vigilance”, but he acknowledged the difficulties many people would be facing by sticking to the rules.

“We made this very difficult decision knowing fully well it will severely disrupt your livelihoods and bring undue hardship to you, your loved ones and your communities,” he said. “However, such sacrifices are needed to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our country.”

 He said the Federal Government, which has also been distributing cash and food, would add 1 million households to the programme, which is currently targeting 2.6 million.

He also said the government would develop a comprehensive policy to bring its economy through the crisis, and set up a task force to minimise the impact of lockdowns on farmers and the agricultural sector.

Nigerians lament high cost of foodstuffs, agro commodities

As the lockdown occasioned by the spread of the coronavirus pandemic grounds commercial, human and vehicular activities in some parts of the country, hunger has begun to stare Nigerians in the face as prices of foodstuffs and other agro commodities increase at an alarming rate.

Currently, the restrictions have negatively impacted the food supply chain with the tightening of transportation and port capacities, which has resulted in the shortage of food supply.

To say that the food sector is greatly feeling the impact of COVID-19 is to say the least

In some of the Lagos markets visited during the four hour window granted by government for people shop, a paint of rice sold for N1, 800 two weeks ago, sells between N2, 400 and N2, 800; a paint of garri, initially sold for between N300 and N350 now N1, 300; a kilogramme of chicken previously sold at N1, 100/kg is now N1, 500/kg (excluding courier since they can’t pick it up); 50kg basket of tomato initially sold for between N4, 000 to N5, 000, currently sells for between N13, 000 to N15, 000; small tuber of yam previously sold for N300 to N400 has jumped to N700. This cuts across almost all categories of produce.

At the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) the prices of bags of the various brands of rice had gone up to between N22, 000 and N27, 000 as against the former prices of between N19, 500 and N25, 000, a few days ago.

“Similarly, a bag of beans, which formerly sold for N18, 000 has also increased to N20, 000.

“A measure of beans still sells for between N350 and N400 depending on the type. The price of millet, sorghum and maize had increased to N300 per measure.

“The price of sugar, a commodity in high demand during the fasting period, has increased from N600 to N800 per measure and N16, 000 per bag as against N8, 000,” he said.

Mr. Muhammadu Yusuf, a fruits dealer also in Lugbe market, said that the price of a bag of oranges had gone up from N5, 000 to N7, 000.

He said that the same applied to the other fruits such as mangoes, pineapples, watermelon, banana, apple and cucumber.

“The prices of fruits such as oranges, banana and water melon have slightly appreciated.

“One orange sells for between N20 and N30 as against the former price of N10 to N15, while a bunch of banana sells for between N700 and N1, 000, depending on the type and size,” he added.

A tomato seller, Mr. Yahaya Musa, said the price of a basket of tomatoes had gone up to N20, 000 as against between N8, 500 and N12, 000.

Musa attributed the hike in the cost of these items to the lockdown and movement restrictions.

“Ten litres of foreign vegetable oil, which formerly sold for between N3, 000 and N3,500 is now selling for between N4,000 and N4,500, depending on the brand.

Nigerians who top up N100 airtime will get cash

Despite the fact that the World Data Lab’s Poverty Clock said that over 90 million people – roughly half Nigeria’s population – live in extreme poverty. Around June 2018, President Buhari in his recorded speech on Monday ordered the expansion of the National Register of the Poor by one million more househoods, about four million more Nigerians.

Explaining the criteria which will be used to arrive at this figure which was said will      come mainly from the urban poor, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Umar Farouq, said that the Federal Government considers Nigerians who buy N100 call credit as poor and will ensure they get relief cash.

The minister, who earlier confirmed that N-Power beneficiaries were being paid their stipends, spoke in an interview with State House correspondents on Tuesday.

NAN quoted her as disclosing that urban poor dwellers with an account balance of N5, 000 or less will be among the beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer scheme.

Farouq said the prospective beneficiaries would be part of the additional one million households approved by President Muhammadu Buhari in his national broadcast Monday night.

“You are also aware that Mr. President in his broadcast directed that we expand the beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer by one million. In this regard, we are going to focus more on the urban poor.

“These are people who depend on the informal sector to earn their livelihood. They are daily wage earners and these are people we are really going to focus more on as well as people living with disabilities,’’ she stated.and previous record of purchase of recharge cards by mobile phone owners formed part of criteria to identify Nigerians that will get the cash transfer.

“We are also using the mobile network, people that top up their phones with maybe N100, N200. These are the people we consider to be poor and vulnerable,’’ the minister added.

Last line

With the promise of President Buhari to expand the Nation Register of poor and vulnerable Nigerians by one more million households of ‘poorest of the poor’ only about 15 Nigerians is expected to benefit from the cash transfer leaving a huge deficit of over 75 million poor Nigerians, which is not a pass mark for the Federal Government and the consequences the country shall see as days pass by.  (Sunday Telegraph)

 

 

 

 


Source: News Express

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