I think that the lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic was an essential measure in spite of the hardship it brought economically. However, the implementation and the duration of the lock down exposed many shortcomings in the way Nigeria runs as a society. There are lessons that can be learned from the experience that will not only help to improve Nigeria economically but also medically and scientifically.
First, the lock down was almost inevitable because the World Health Organisation recommended it as an effective measure to slow the spread of the coronavirus and many advanced countries like Britain, Germany, France and the United States of America had implemented it. Even China where the novel coronavirus was discovered implemented lockdown measures. The Federal Government shut down the Nigerian land borders, airports, schools and public places in March 2020 as a measure to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the correct approach to tackle the pandemic should have been science based. If the Nigerian science and research community had been up and doing it would have observed one or two months after the lockdown that the coronavirus was not as lethal in African countries as it was in Europe and America. If I were in a position of authority I would have asked competent professionals in Nigeria’s science and medical community to advise the best way to tackle the pandemic from the outset. The Swedish government chose to go this way and did not lock down despite strong criticism from other European countries. Sweden’s Covid-19 response was led by Anders Tegnell, an epidemiologist, and today they appear to have the pandemic under control while other European countries are still struggling to contain Covid-19 spikes after eased lockdown.
Second, the Nigerian government’s efforts to ease the suffering of Nigerians during the lockdown by distributing palliatives were hijacked by politicians. Politicians took charge of distributing food items and cash to the poor. In practice these distributions were characterised by corruption as most of the palliatives did not get to the people who needed them the most. Furthermore, the security operatives who were charged with enforcing the lockdown ended up killing more people with their guns for disobeying the lockdown order than the coronavirus itself. During the lockdown many food items perished in the farms because the means of distributing them to people willing to buy them were restricted. As a result farmers suffered losses, market women lost economic opportunities and people suffered from hunger in their homes. If I were in authority I would have ensured that essential services like food and medical supplies delivery continued smoothly through the lockdown.
Third, the implementation of the fight against Covid-19 disease in hospitals and isolation centres was accompanied by dubious activities. There were accounts of healthcare workers falsely diagnosing ailments like malaria and cough as Covid-19 disease so as to reach set targets and claim money set aside to fight the disease. Worse still, many private healthcare centres rejected sick people they suspected of having Covid-19 disease. As a result, people lost confidence in the healthcare system and stayed at home when they were sick. People started seeing the Covid-19 related figures regularly released by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control as fabricated numbers to justify huge budget claims from the government.
Nigeria by the end of September 2020 had experienced six months of some degree of lockdown and I think it was sufficient time to learn enough about the Covid-19 disease. If I had the authority I would have lifted the lockdown in Nigeria completely by September.
I think the experience from the lock down offers Nigeria another opportunity to see how badly things turn out when we do not do things properly. We should not have blindly copied measures to fight the pandemic from foreign countries. The lockdown should not have gone on for too long and we should not have lost lives and economic opportunities needlessly. If we did things properly we would not misappropriate and mismanage scarce resources in the fight against the pandemic. If I had the authority I would insist that things be done properly everywhere in Nigeria because when people see that things are done right it will be less difficult to get the people to work together for a better country.