As yet another day begins unfolding, I am overwhelmed by sadness on the condition of my people. My Nigerian people.
How did we get here? How did we get into this situation?
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began ravaging the entire world and pausing all activities, many countries have been forced to enforce a lockdown in order to curb the spread of the virus. While some countries in the West have initiated a solution to cushion the consequential effects of the pandemic, Nigeria however is still a light-year away from implementing this solution.
Lagos, the business hub of the country, has been placed on a lockdown for over 3 weeks now, as it records 60% of the country's confirmed COVID-19 cases. Sure, that was a good move as Lagos accommodates over 15 million people. But, what plans have the government secured to ensure people seriously affected by the lockdown are taken care of?
There were reports in the news about cash donations from private individuals worth billions of Naira. However, the citizens don't seem like they have been taken care of as promised by the Lagos State government and the Federal Government. Instead, there is a decline in the lives of Nigerians.
Since the lockdown was enforced, food prices have tripled, drinking water prices have doubled, bills are still running high and money is drawing fast with no hope of replenishing any time soon. The poor and vulnerable people living in Lagos have become poorer. Average salary earners, whose jobs are either placed on hold or have resorted to paying a percentage of their salaries, have become broke and are struggling to live comfortably.
While we all do what we can to fight the COVID-19 pandemic together, there is another viral disease which is more deadlier than COVID-19 and that is HUNGER. Hunger may seem like an irrelevant issue right now but Nigerians, especially Lagosians, would rather throw caution to the wind by flouting the lockdown rules and go in search of anything they can do to earn money so that they can feed themselves. Some reports have shown how Nigerians are expressing their anger about coping with hunger. Others have been seen attacking and stealing food from vehicles delivering food items to vendors for sale. It is like a jungle movie.
In the last 2 weeks, there has been incessant robbery attacks on some residents living on the mainland. Poor idle young men, who hunger has shown no mercy to, now rob and sometimes rape their fellow struggling citizens so they can eat and even provide for their poor families.
And what are the police doing about this? Nothing. So, residents have now become vigilantes to protect themselves from robbery attacks, even in broad daylight. Some police operatives would rather patrol the highway and extort unsuspecting citizens who are out to buy essential items and sometimes, shoot a few people dead over bribery of N200 (not even up to $1). That's what the lives of Nigerians are worth. The Nigerians whose families are not famous and whose words are empty to the "ogas at the top".
As it is, hunger is now a strong motivator to do whatever it takes in order to survive each day spent indoors. What is the government's plan to provide for such people in Lagos? Nothing except food items that will only feed 2 people at once. So, one meal is the ultimate solution provided by the government for the poor Nigerians begging to be helped? The palliatives being shared for poor Nigerians are only shared in the North, with very low records of the COVID-19 cases. But Lagos has zero support. To even make it worse, the Federal Government announced that whoever has up to N5,000 ($13), will not receive funds from the government. Are they kidding me?
How did we get here? How did it come to this?
Everyone is becoming a scavenger, hunting for anything to feed on and survive each day as daily income earners have transformed into an enemy after hunger. Can this be fixed? I highly doubt it because the EU's €21m donation to Nigeria to support the poor is only going to support those in power. We all know it. If this viral disease called HUNGER is not properly tamed, the mortality rates will be devastating which could lead to unrest and revolt. We don't even know the magnitude of this problem.
So, what do we do in the meantime? Survive or die trying. Sadly, that is the reality we live daily.
About the Author:
Jasmine Asekome is a Fundraising and Communications Consultant with over 5 years experience working in the nonprofit sector in Lagos, Nigeria, focused on helping internally displaced persons (IDPs) survive and thrive. From 2012-2014, she was a content contributor for an online magazine where she wrote several articles and short stories. She is currently the Executive Director in a newly established non-profit for vulnerable children in rural communities and still works to support IDPs and refugees in Nigeria.