By Christian Nwokocha
OWERRI – The commando approach by Governors and security operatives who perhaps wish to stop Coronavirus from spreading to any of the states in the South East zone of Nigeria has created needless panic on the side of the people and state of confusion in the management of the lockdown order by the authorities in the area.
Governors who did not make adequate plan before the lockdown order are already behind schedule since they are yet to unveil their palliative plans, create information centres and give trusted direction on what the people should do in the midst of food scarcity and imminent malnutrition.
The unnecessary pandemonium against COVID-19 which started in December 2019 in faraway China Republic, has caused food scarcity, starvation and malnutrition in most families and communities that often pride itself as farmers within the South East.
The unwarranted intimidation, flogging of farmers and food vendors who wish to supply food items to cities and communities by security operatives particularly the Nigerian Army personels are worsening the state of starvation in the South East.
The mandatory self-isolation ordered by states and the Federal Government apparently meant to prevent the spread of the dreaded disease Coronavirus has created starvation in the region, just as the authorities seem to have forgotten that most Nigerians including the people of the South East live on a day pay job and cannot afford to store food items for more than 24 hours.
News reports have it that both the lowest and middle income earners in the area are not used to food storage and those who have food storing capacity do not have food storing facilities. Reports had it that this same situation was partly responsible to food scarcity in most families and communities across the South East.
Speaking exclusively with a middle age civil servant and a mother of six children in Owerri, Imo State Mrs Patience Echeruo, she described the total lockdown as frightful and wondered how she would survive with her children.
“The money to feed my children is no longer the problem, but the food to buy is now the issue. We have finished all the food I stored in the house. I thought the problem will not be as bad as it is today. Inadequate public power supply has made it difficult for us to store food for a long time.
“Prices of food have increased since the market cannot open. A bag of rice if you see it anywhere costs about N37,000, a paint of gari is now N2000 against N500 being the previous cost. The money and food which I planned for one week finished in three days. We cannot find fish, egg and meat to buy. The situation is worrisome because my children must eat food”.
Also in Owerri, reports had it that women from Akwakuma Autonomous community in Owerri North Local Government Area who had gari and other grains for buyers were stopped at the Amakohia Flyover by the security operatives. They were intimidated and commanded to go back to where they are coming from.
In Anambra State, DAILY INDEPENDENT gathered that the border closure between the state and Delta State particularly at the River Niger bridge has prevented farmers and food vendors from supplying gari in their usual loaded trucks into the state.
It was further gathered that yams, plantains, rice and other food items from Enugu were blocked from entering the state.
A community leader and former President General of Ikenga Ogidi Union in Anambra State, Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Obianagha warned that unless palliative measures are put in place urgently to cushion the effect of the lockdown adopted by majority of states in Nigeria, hunger and starvation that faced people during the Civil War will be a child’s play.
Obianagha said a situation where people are forced to stay at home, markets are closed and banks are not working for 14 days spells dare consequences on the populace.
“There must be palliative as happened during the Civil War. Primary schools can be used and volunteers recruited to help distribute food items to children. If you wait for parents, hunger will kill a lot of children.”
The State Governor Willie Obiano promised to provide a minimum of 200 bags of rice each to all Autonomous communities in the state, just as a paint of gari now costs N1500 against N600 before the total lockdown in the state.
Abia State was also faced with the hard times expected of the total lockdown. The Governor admitted that the livelihood of Abians have been disrupted by the pandemic and unveiled his plans to cushion the effects of the lockdown order.
“As of midnight March 31, 2020, a full lockdown of the state came into effect in line with the notice that had been earlier given to that effect.
“This also entails the closing of all land borders in Abia State for an initial period of 2 weeks subject to weekly reviews as we monitor the situation. Security operatives have been deployed to enforce this directive and ensure full compliance. This is to ensure that carriers of the disease from other states do not bring it into Abia State.
“Mindful of the fact that this pandemic has disrupted livelihoods of Abians, I have set up a food-security team to work out necessary palliative interventions in case of a prolonged lock-down. This Committee shall source foodstuff and work out distribution modalities to Abians who critically require them. Rest assured that we are prepared for every eventuality.
“I am glad to note that the Ministry of Finance has complied with my directive on payment of March 2020 salaries to Civil Servants in Abia State. It is my understanding that as of today, all Civil Servants have been paid while pensions have been sent to banks for crediting of beneficiaries after a successful verification exercise.
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