President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday night announced a total lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and federal capital territory (FCT) for a period of 14 days as part of measures to check the spread of the COVID-19 in the country.
A lot of people might need clarification on how this order will affect them.
Q: I run a barbing salon and my friend is a vulcanizer. Can we open during the lockdown?
A: The answer is no. All businesses and offices not classified as “essential” will be fully closed during the lockdown.
Q: Thank God. In that case, my niece can open her shop. She sells rice and turkey and that should certainly be treated as essential.
A: That’s right. All involved in food processing, distribution and retail are exempted. After all, we will all be dead without food for two weeks.
Q: Eateries and bakeries will open in that case?
A: Yes. They are part of the food processing and retail chain.
Q: Does that mean Shoprite which sells all sorts, including food, will open too?
A: There is no clarity regarding this in the president’s speech, but the basic guess is that only the food section will be allowed to operate — in theory.
Q: Food is not my problem. I may fall ill and need to buy some medicines during the period. I may even need hospital treatment. Am I in some form of trouble?
A: You are still good. The restriction does not apply to hospitals and all related medical establishments as well as organisations in health care related manufacturing and distribution.
Q: Wait… my sister works for a private security company. If offices are closed, will there be no security to guard them during the lockdown?
A: Private security companies are not affected. You don’t want to return to office after two weeks and discover that your desk and TV sets have been stolen.
Q: This may sound stupid, but since movement will be restricted, are the exempted citizens, such as doctors and nurses, going to fly to work? How would they get there?
A: It is still unclear if there will be government-provided or government-approved vehicles for essential workers during the lockdown, but those who have private cars will be able to move as long as they can properly identify themselves. A work ID will be useful in this circumstance.
Q: But how will they get fuel if they have cars?
A: Petroleum distribution and retail entities are also not affected, so the fuel stations will be open. According to Mele Kyari, the NNPC GMD, “states have all consented to allow movement of fuel trucks and operation of stations during any sit at home action. Our stock and supply plan are robust and there is no need to buy more than you require at any time”.
Q: My girlfriend works at TheCable as a journalist and I am wondering if she can go out during the period?
A: You may have to advise her to try as much as possible not to go out except it is necessary. But Buhari has said workers in telecommunication companies, broadcasters, print and electronic media staff who can prove they are unable to work from home are also exempted.
Q: I will advise her accordingly. I will also advise my uncle in Lugbe to stock up things so that he won’t have to start coming to town to buy anything.
A: It may not be necessary. Buhari said for residents of satellite and commuter towns and communities around Lagos and Abuja whose livelihoods will be affected by some of these restrictive measures, government will deploy relief materials to ease their pains.
Q: I need money to stock up, and my ATM card will expire on Monday but my bank says a new card will be ready in three working days. How do I sort this? Will banks be open?
A: Relax. Banks will not be open, but a lot of banking operations have gone online. There will be skeletal services to ensure you can buy what you need. Little advice: get some cash before the lockdown.
Q: This lockdown will affect my businesses. What relief has the government provided for me during this period?
A: Businesses that are beneficiaries of government interventions will receive a three-month moratorium on their loans. Apart from this, no other incentive has been announced for businesses, but the agencies of government in charge of the economy have short to medium term plans for your business — post-lockdown.
Q: But Nigeria depends on importation a lot. Will the ports remain open?
A: Yes. All seaports in Lagos, through which most goods come into the country, will remain operational in accordance with the guidelines. Vehicles and drivers conveying essential cargoes from these ports to other parts of the country will be screened thoroughly before departure by the Ports Health Authority.
Q: We need to talk about the big boys — those guys who fly in private jets. You can be sure they will be exempted.
A: Not so fast! Movements of all passenger aircraft, both commercial and private jets, are also suspended.
Q: Including air ambulance and some other essential flights that may bring important supplied to the country?
A: To every rule, there is an exception. Special permits will be issued on a needs basis. If Aliko Dangote wants to bring 10 million test kits to Nigeria, of course there will be an exemption for the flights.
Q: If you may indulge with one more question — how will this be enforced? Remember we are a lawless country…
A: A combined team of soldiers and police will be deployed in the streets for enforcement. Police may be your friend, but army is not. Be prepared for some tough time if you venture out.
Q: But won’t people eat? Won’t people’s livelihood be destroyed in two weeks? How can we lock up everywhere and not expect backlash?
A: The state governments are already setting up special markets and putting in place measures to ameliorate the anticipated suffering. They have promised to distribute food materials regularly (but you know us very well Nigeria — there will be sharp practices). Most importantly, though, given the mortality rate of the disease in countries such as Spain, Italy, France and Iran, Nigerians will just have to sacrifice during this period. There are no easy options.
Q: I still have questions.
A: So do we. You are in great company. On Monday, federal and state agencies will provide more information on the implementation of the lockdown. Virtually all our questions will find answers. For now, do what you must to prepare.