Millions of Nigerians may face starvation, should federal and state authorities shut down the nation in a desperate bid to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
To contain a Covid-19 outbreak, The Government and health officials are a thin line between enforcing a curfew. The fear is that a prolonged stay-at-home, for more than half the population, can lead to starvation. On account of this, some people have aired their discontentment should a lockdown be enforced.
“Nigeria is not prepared at all for food security during a lockdown,” warned Prof. Kolawole Adebayo. Should there be a lockdown, food would become the new problem added to COVID-19, he said.
A farm extension specialist at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) and former African Coordinator of the Cassava: Adding Value for Africa (CAVA) projects, Adebayo noted:
Variables are many and have all been neglected for too long. When last did we update our strategic food reserves and what was the basis of acquiring the foods stored? Is there a match between population distribution and strategic location of food reserves? Did we consider the security of the food reserves and the road, rail air and water transport necessary to move food around when locating the food reserves? The state of our infrastructure is terrible. Did we take heed and fix them? No!”
Just one month of lockdown will pose a huge challenge to the population, said Dr Richardson Okechukwu, a cassava breeding and production expert at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). He explained that while salary earners might be able to stock up on food (if they get paid), daily earners would face a raw deal.
Similarly, the National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS), in a statement by its president, Ken Ukaoha, in Abuja yesterday appealed to the government “to consider further palliatives in the face of prevalent strangulating economic conditions staring at the poor informal traders and others in the SMEs bracket.”
The combined effects of tripod turbulence presently facing traders must be strongly considered so that the nation’s economy would still find a way to stand on her feet without sinking into another recession.”
What is the Government doing about it ?
Measures should be put in place to regulate the food supply chain which can be monitored from farms to consumers. A delegated unit should be formed to enfore health and safety precautions within the chain of supplies which must be able to trace commodities from farm to table.
According to a statement by Special Assistant (Press) to the President of the Senate Ezrel Tabiowo, the government must come up with a plan to keep the farmers and pharmacies supply chain functioning to alleviate the hardship of a temporary lockdown.
“We need to have some kind of supplies for people. I don’t know how we can achieve this, but we have to be ingenious. This is a time to think deep and wide, to provide for our people, in order for us, at least, to deal with this challenge at the moment.” He said.