The stay-at-home directive from the Federal Government to civil servants, which is meant to mitigate the adverse effects of the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic is just timely and reasonable. The Federal and various state governments have closed down institutions, schools, and offices as a preventive measure to curtail the spread of the deadly virus. Hence, parents, children, and family members are compelled to stay at home for a month or thereabout to encourage social distancing.
Staying at home has a burden. There is a need to solve another serious challenge at hand. For schoolchildren, staying at home means less academic work and more time for pleasure and extra-curricular activities. This may eventually affect their academic work by the time schools resume. As planned by several public schools, the deployment of online teaching facilities would help to keep teachers and their pupils busy.
Ordinarily, when people are busy working, they think less of food, even though they still find the time to fill their stomachs. But staying at home and doing far less work tends to make them eat more. Normally, people would have to spend more money to keep body and soul together. Not to defeat the essence of staying at home, governments at all levels should pay workers’ salaries without delay. They should not wait till the end of the month before doing so because of the peculiarity of this period. This would enable them to purchase basic needs, otherwise staying home and doing nothing could be counter-productive. Employers of labour in the private sector should also endeavour to pay the outstanding salaries as many workers employees are being owed several months’ unpaid salaries.
Apart from food and other consumables, many homes hardly enjoy power supply. Many Nigerians often resort to alternative sources of power, such as the use of generators, inverters, and solar. Aside from this, they require power to pump water, watch television, charge mobile telephones and to operate other electronic devices. They also need to monitor the news in the media and get updated on developments on the COVID-19 pandemic.
To make life bearable for the people, the authorities should ensure that there is at least uninterrupted supply of electricity for a certain period daily. Regulatory agencies should ensure that artificial scarcity of petroleum products is prevented otherwise the suffering of the people will become unbearable. This is because unscrupulous persons are used to hiding under emergencies to exploit their fellow citizens by hoarding petroleum products and sell at cut-throat prices. Nigerians spend a huge amount of money on fuel, diesel, kerosene and gas. It is disheartening to note that despite the reduction in the pump price of petrol from N145 to N125, many petrol filling stations have either refused to adjust to the new price regime or have complied, but the volume of fuel being dispensed is not commensurate with the correct pricing.
Government ministries, departments and agencies in charge of public health and safety should not go to sleep simply because the people have been sent home. They should continue to put in place, sufficient, realistic, and sustainable programmes of action to end the scourge, which could be a time bomb waiting to explode, if not well-managed. This should not be allowed to happen. The confinement should enable the relevant authorities to holistically address what has become a global problem.
Public officials should stop playing politics with questionable statistics that they churn out to the people to give the impression that a lot of work is being done; that casualty is abysmally low, and that adequate equipment are on ground to curtail the viral spread. Honesty and openness is what is required at this period and not deceit, false claims and propaganda that will help no one.
Law enforcement agents should ensure that they keep a tab on peoples’ movements, bearing in mind that some people are just restless and can barely stay indoors. Appropriate punishment should be meted out to violators. As additional measures are to be unfolded, the government should be realistic in what is communicated to the people to ensure smooth compliance.
In the next few days, there is the likelihood that many people will switch-over to social media to keep themselves busy. This should expectedly increase activity on the new media. Avoid posting and reposting fake, unverified and misleading information that may likely cause more harm to society. Most of the information disseminated in social media appears to be incorrect. A potent way of ending the spread of falsehood is not to re-share anything without verification or authentication.
We should be our brother’s keeper by being more responsive, observant and caring. We should cooperate with health officials by sticking to approved guidelines and instructions. Reporting any suspected cases of coronavirus to designated offices, telephone numbers and social media contacts would go a long way in reducing the spread of the disease. Parents and guardians should monitor their children and wards more closely because of the tendency to engage in illegal and immoral acts. Apart from the idleness that would be experienced by these young chaps, the urge to wanting to try new things and misbehave cannot be ruled out. Scrutiny and spontaneous checks on their activities should be taken seriously at this moment.
On a positive note, rather than see the confinement in a negative light, it should serve as a good opportunity for family members to stay closer more than before, discuss and sort out issues. This period should spur people to take well-deserved rest, read, write, reflect deeply, be creative and observe penance, especially the faithful that are currently observing the Lenten season, to pray for quick end to coronavirus, pray for Nigeria in distress, and also pray against bribery and corruption in Nigeria. The reason for this is simple. We badly need divine intervention to solve the myriads problems facing the nation and humanity in general, irrespective of religion, ethnicity, tribe and race. It is hoped that the sit-at-home order would soon be over. This optimism can only translate into reality when we all do the needful. COVID-19 would certainly come and go.
Kupoluyi wrote in from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.