THEWILL EDITORIAL: LIFT THE LOCKDOWN NOW!

BEVERLY HILLS, May 21, (THEWILL) – The open ‘show of shame’ and the arrogant display of crude force by the Nigeria Police in Lagos on Tuesday, May 19, 2020 under the guise of enforcing the Inspector General of Police’s directive on COVID-19 lockdown curfew as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari was a total embarrassment.

IGP Mohammed Adamu, with his directive to his boys, has, once again, proven to the nation that he is truly out of touch with reality. A presidential order on lockdown curfew, which clearly exempted workers on essential duties , including healthcare workers and journalists, was overzealously turned in the head, all in a bid to enforce IGP Adamu’s directive to the letters.

The action of the Lagos Police, Tuesday night, which caused untold hardship, pains and sorrow to many residents caught in the web, was the climax of the terror being unleashed on innocent Nigerians by the police in a democracy.

Medical doctors and other frontline workers in the vanguard of the efforts to contain further spread of COVID-19 were openly harassed, assaulted and detained by the police who blocked the major roads in the city.

At a point at about 8:30pm, the Lagos State Commissioner for Justice and other top government officials, including some of the Governor’s aides, returning from work, were held up in the police blockade on Osborne Road in Ikoyi along with over 200 vehicles in the long stretch of traffic. Lagos State Police Commissioner, Hakeem Odumosu, could not be reached on phone by top state government officials.

It took the intervention of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu who had to call IGP Adamu on phone for the policemen on duty on that stretch of the road to bulge. Other residents not too lucky had to pass the night on the road with all the attendant dangers.

That was not the first time such incident was happening in Lagos, especially at the borders with neighbouring Ogun State. Reports from other parts of the country also point to exploitation of the situation by the police who now seem to be turning their frustration on innocent Nigerians.

There is no doubt that the police across the country have turned the lockdown into another moneymaking venture with cases of abuse, harassment and open extortion everywhere. COVID-19 has become a big business as usual for the policemen on our roads across the country.

Some state governors are not also helping the matter by turning themselves into dictators of some sort, issuing directives that are not in tune with reality and, sometimes, in contradiction of the orders from the Federal Government. There seems to be a total disconnect between the Federal Government and the States on the real implementation of COVID-19 restrictions and enforcement of the much-hyped lockdown.

It is clearly evident that the main objectives of the lockdown have been totally defeated by the overwhelming poverty in the land. Survival on a daily basis has become the lot of many Nigerians, especially those in the informal sector. The absence of good and sustainable social policy from the government to cushion the effects on the masses is not also helping matters in any way.

In as much as we support the government’s efforts to contain further spread of COVID-19 in the country and flatten the curve, we strongly believe that an economy as weak as Nigeria’s should not be on lockdown for too long. Even countries with stronger economies who were badly hit by the virus are coming back on stream by relaxing their lockdowns. Nigeria should not be an exception.

The fact is that the country does not have the capacity to effectively fight the coronavirus and shut it out of our shores. The Nigeria Center for Disease Control, NCDC, has barely managed to test 38, 231 samples out of an estimated population of around 200 million. This is really poor.

The new thinking in some quarters that the country’s economy is not ready for re-opening now should not be allowed to thrive. The government and Nigerians must learn to live with the Coronavirus by sticking to all the health guidelines and principles of the ‘New Normal’.

The federal government must as a matter urgency completely lift the lockdown so that the fragile economy can begin to recover and then implement guidelines that will help Nigerians cohabitate safely with the virus until a vaccine is ready.