Corruption and Poverty are Killing Nigerians more than COVID-19 

FILE PHOTO: Independence Road along Bompai Police Quarter's deserted as a result of the Kano State Government’s lockdown order to stop the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic epidemic, in the state

After five weeks of continued extension, President Muhammadu Buhari finally eased Nigeria’s total lockdown in May, declared on Lagos and Ogun States, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), due to the coronavirus outbreak in Nigeria.

Even as the number of cases continue to rise exponentially in the face of the relaxation, nothing seems to appear more feasible.

Because Nigeria can no longer afford to keep its doors shut lest the nation starves.

Nigeria is unceremoniously the poverty capital of the world, with over 80 million citizens living below the poverty mark of $1 per day.


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The failure of government institutions, the magnitude of corruption, and the overall inefficiency of the government to reduce the margin has proven costly to Nigeria in the fight against covid-19, forcing Nigerians to go out to earn their meals thereby making transmission easier.

Despite belatedly announcing travel bans from high risk countries, and a lockdown afterwards, government economic palliatives to entice citizens to stay-at-home were miserly and barely got to Nigeria’s poorly documented indigents.

Economic hardship forced many low-income houses to go out despite initial lockdown orders, as increased crime rate swept across the country, making a mockery of the lockdown.

There was little done to provide relief for the citizens.

Even when the Nigerian government tried to help out with some palliative, the process got marred by corruption and nepotism.

The social register was last updated in May 2018, with 503,005 households captured in 20 states.

Yet, only 297,973 received palliatives, the majority of whom were from North West states, where the President is from – notwithstanding that they either had not recorded any coronavirus cases at the time, or had no lockdown.

While Ogun State, one of the hotbeds of the virus, did not benefit from the palliative.

Interestingly, this misbehaviour  runs from top to bottom in the country.

Only two weeks into the outbreak in Nigeria, whereas the virus had killed 11 Nigerians, security agents were responsible for 18 deaths nationwide in the process of enforcing the lockdown.

Despite Germany’s coronavirus numbers, meanwhile, Nigeria’s –now late– Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari visited Germany, returned to Nigeria where he attended social functions and did not observe the 14 day mandatory isolation until his test results came back positive.

This case would have been avoided but for Nigeria’s leadership inadequacies.

During the lockdown, a skyrocketing crime rate shared between actual thieves and security agents rocked Lagos and Ogun, but the government was silent, while the Police chiefs feigned ignorance.

Nigeria does not have a firm nationwide approach to curbing the spread of the virus.

While Lagos state is at the fore, some states are business as usual.

If Nigeria wants to reduce the spread of the virus, the federal government needs to take a cue from Ghana and take a more disciplined approach across all levels.

Security agents caught molesting citizens should face instant disciplinary action, and citizens not following protocols should be sanctioned.

There should be provisions for nationwide testing, contact tracing and isolation.

Corona virus has hit Africa’s biggest country, not just Lagos State.

If Nigeria does not get to work now, America will be sorry for us soon.

Akinyemi Muhammed is a writing fellow at African Liberty and holds an LL.B (Hons) from the University of Ilorin. He is an alumnus of the African Presidential Leadership Program, Cairo, and tweets via @theprincelyx.

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