Many Nigerians in their lifetime have never experienced a shutdown of a country. Perhaps, those who are old enough and could remember the circumstances that led to the Quarantine Act of the early 20th century, when the Spanish Influenza raged across the world, may recall that a lot of the human and economic activities had to be stopped so as to reduce the spread of the deadly virus then.
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And now with this Coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic which is not only killing as many humans as possible but is also threatening to render a lot of us Nigerians jobless, poor, depressed and without their loved ones.
As early as January this year, when other parts of the world were yet to experience the full weight of the viral disease, China already shut down the entirety of Wuhan province. Other nations such as Italy and Spain soon followed suit. The United States, United Kingdom, Japan, South Africa, Australia and many other economies in the ‘Group of 20’ have also now proceeded to shut down partially or completely the country.
However, in Nigeria, the presidency acted almost immune to the effect of the gradual shutting down of the world economy despite having the index Coronavirus patient as early as February 28.
Some have suggested that what could have been most ideal for President Muhammadu Buhari to do, at the point where the number of positive Coronavirus cases growing exponentially, was to invoke the Quarantine Act and make adequate preparations to cushion the effect of a shutdown on Nigerians and the economy. He who fails to plan plans to fail, they say.
Thanks to the effort of the Ministry of Health and the Nigerian Center for Disease Control which though with inadequate resources deployed and have tested less than 300 people out of a long list of Nigerians of the whopping 200 million. It wasn’t until the president’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, tested positive to the virus that we saw the resemblance of some resources moving around.
With this inadequate preparation for the blow came the sudden Crude Oil price crash in the global market. Unfortunately, Nigerians have to brace for harder impact.
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The Nigerian Naira is already being sold at the black market above N400 against the dollar. The crude oil price crash and the glut in the market is already affecting the revenue which the government can generate to cater to its needs. In case the death toll from the Coronavirus keeps rising, Nigerians must expect more state governors to announce a total shutdown of economic activities. As long as economic activities are suspended in the country, we should expect mass job losses in a country which is already plagued with the high unemployment rate. This high unemployment rate can only deepen poverty and reduce the spending power of Nigerians ultimately.
The list of possible and unintended consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic goes on and on. The focus should, however, not be totally centred on the negatives but on what we as citizens can do while we wait on the government to rise to the occasion.
The organized private and other wealthy individuals are already mobilizing to crowdsource relief funds for the vulnerable as well as to make provisions for the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds needed for patients of the Coronavirus. Volunteers are also pouring in to help health workers in caring for victims while also educating the public on ways of reducing the spread of the virus. All of these measures may pan out positively before we get to the dead end.
Notwithstanding, the Coronavirus places more severe speculation on the ‘Buhari-led’ presidency. A scenario as such was last witnessed in the Umaru Yar’Adua era when the president died and the Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan was not allowed to take over as constitutionally mandated. Should any of the top political elite in the presidency, currently infected by the Coronavirus, die as a result of the disease, the struggle for power may go in directions which no one ever envisaged. Nigerians can only hope that the rule of law is followed in any scenario which may present itself.
Featured Image Source: News Flash 247 NG
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