A TELEVISION analyst described the reaction of Nigerians to the gradual easing of the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown last Monday as reminiscent of “the release of animals from a cage”. An exercise meant to cut a fine line between lockdown to limit the spread of the virus and the gradual reopening of the economy became an absolute bedlam.
Nigerians poured onto the streets, bus-stops, highways, banks, markets and other places with all caution and the social distancing principle thrown to the dogs.
Some of the banks acted irresponsibly in their self-centred bid to protect themselves from possible contamination with coronavirus. They closed some of their branches and opened only a few. This caused massive crowding of their customers around bank premises in desperate efforts to withdraw monies to resume their livelihoods.
The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and the Bankers’ Committee must do much more to rein in the excesses of banks, especially in their attitudes towards staff and customers. Banks must create less cumbersome procedures for customers to have access to their money, while the CBN keeps these deposit money banks assured of policy support to tide over the initial painful moments of return to economic activities.
People should not be allowed to do whatever they like in protecting themselves while inflicting avoidable pain on innocent citizens.
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The near-anarchy of the first few days of reopening the economy speaks so eloquently of our country and its governability. In disciplined countries like Taiwan and Mainland China, the lockdowns were methodical, with the people and governments working synergistically to beat the pandemic within three months with minimal casualties. Countries that chose to misbehave have paid dearly for their recalcitrance. The United States which chose to politicise the pandemic in this election year has had its nose bloodied.
Here in Nigeria, we have mercifully desisted from politicising the pandemic. But our level of indiscipline and lack of synergy are guaranteed to trigger infection flares which could prove devastating. Because Nigerians see government as crooked, corrupt and uncaring they refuse to believe or comply with anything government says or does even in genuine efforts to serve the public good. That’s sad.
No country goes to war with the people and the government working at cross-purposes and wins. Whether it is a shooting war or a battle with a pandemic, government and the people must close ranks. This is the time for the people to listen to the government and voluntarily submit to its leadership in their own interests.
If we continue with this “every man for himself” attitude to this emergency and our frontline health workers and other essential frontline troops are overwhelmed then the scenario we’ve feared the most will be upon us!
Who will help us since every country is also struggling to survive?
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