Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org
“The Lagos State Chapter of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) is dismayed that the Federal Government and the Lagos State government have continued to lock down the state without workable palliative being put in PLACE,” the party said in a statement to TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington D.C. on Thursday.
In the joint statement signed by Comrade Rufus Olusesan and Shoyombo Monsuru, SPN chairman and publicity secretary respectively, the party described the current lockdown as “the height of insensitivity and callousness to restrict movement without a meaningful alternative survival plan in an economy where the vast majority are daily small income earners such as artisans, traders, ect.”
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has locked down most populous state, Lagos, capital Abuja, and Ogun state, for 14 days, to contain the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
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In a televised address on Sunday, March 29, Mr. Buhari, 77, said residents of Lagos, Abuja and Ogun state must stay home for an initial 14 days with all movements suspended from Monday March 30, 2020, at 11 p.m. local time.
Inter-state movements have also been suspended. President Buhari said movements of all passenger aircraft, both commercial and private jets, are also suspended. Special permits, he added, will be issued “on a needs basis”.
But quarantined Nigerians have expressed fear that hunger may kill them faster than the coronavirus, which is fast spreading around the world.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to urgently grant developing countries, many in Africa, debt relief to cope with COVID-19 economic crisis.
“Many countries are asking people to stay at home and shutting down population movement, which can help to limit transmission of the virus, but can have unintended consequences for the poorest and most vulnerable people,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during his three-time a week press conference on Wednesday in Geneva.
That sentiment was shared by the Socialist Party of Nigeria. “While we recognize lockdown as a necessity to curb the spread of COVID-19, we are equally of the opinion that a government and the ruling elite that truly care for the masses would have consulted with the trade unions, pro-labour organizations, farmers, traders associations, etc., with a view to ushering in comprehensive palliatives that will include cash donations to the working masses as well as workable plans on how to distribute food, medicines and other consumables during the period of lockdown,” the party said.
It added: “The Lagos State Governor recently announced a stimulus package that entails the distribution of some food items to 200,000 households in the first phase and to last for the period of 14 days COVID-19 lockdown. As far as we are concerned, 200, 000 is a small percentage of the number of working class and poor people’s households which requires support at this period. We insist that relief materials must get to all workers and poor people’s families including the homeless and the unemployed. At the same time, we are concerned that this stimulus package, which will be costing the government billions of Naira is devoid of transparency and democratic management and the funds may be susceptible to looting while most of the foodstuff will also be stolen by the privileged few. So far, there has been widespread disenchantment towards the lockdown without food to eat amongst the poor masses and complaints that the Lagos State stimulus is not reaching them in the communities.
“In the same vein, President Buhari’s stimulus for the poorest is like a bucket of water in an ocean.
“It must be noted that unlike top political office holders and the rich in general who must have stocked their store of foodstuff and consumables that could last they and their families longer time and who have enough money to buy additional items even if the lockdown last two YEARS, the many workers and the poor can hardly survive a few days of lockdown
“We are therefore demanding that the Lagos State government and the federal government should subject the stimulus package and relief palliatives to open, transparent and democratic management by elected representatives of the trade unions, pro-people organizations and associations.
“We are also demanding adequate funding of the stimulus package to include cash donations and distribution of food and consumables to the poor. This relief committee will report daily to the public how much funds have been spent and how the funds and food items were disbursed. We also demand that the cash donations to the poor should be N50,000 to all working class and the poor households.
“We call on the Lagos State Councils of the Nigerian Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress, United Labour Congress and Federation of Informal Workers’ Organizations of Nigeria should organise independent community-based control committees.”