Applause, pain and politics of the Lagos State Government’s Coronavirus palliative measures
As in many other mega cities all over the world, the Coronavirus pandemic is on the rise in Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous mega city, and all hands are on the deck to put an end to it.
In the light of this, President Muhammadu Buhari had given an order of 14 days total lockdown of Lagos, Abuja and Ogun State from 11pm on Monday, 30th March, 2020.
Thankfully, many private and corporate bodies have come to the rescue as they donate various relief packages to cushion the effects of the lockdown, especially on the most vulnerable segments of the population.
The disturbing question, however, is whether the courageous and bold war to stem the tide of Coronavirus will not be negated by efforts to get palliatives to the same people who have not been orderly in the quest to access the package.
The methods adopted in distributing the relief materials have also become an issue.
The predisposition of some of those put in charge to cut corners to compromise the integrity of the exercise, as well as divert relief materials even at the risk of their own personal safety also becomes worrisome.
To unravel these Gordian knots, so to say, I reached out to Ms Bisola Olusanya, Head, Lagos State Committee on Relief Package, to ask how this “Rescue Mission” would not turn out to endanger people even more.
She spoke to me at length, emphasizing that
the relief package was not for all Lagosians but only for the indigent, the vulnerable and the aged.
As shocking as it may sound, she alleged that some politicians were trying to cash in on the exercise to score cheap political points.
She regretted that leaders at the local level, who were brought into the show because of their closeness to the grassroots, were hijacking the exercise to feather their own nests and serve primordial interests.
The trust reposed in the LCDAs to help identify indigent people in their communities have been abused, she said.
On the contrary, many of such leaders divert relief packages to enrich themselves and their cronies, she added.
As a result, Olusanya said her committee would now leverage on LASTRA’s data base where they have 190,000 aged people out of whom 25,000 have responded to her committee’s inquiries.
From next week Monday, her committee will employ the services of logistics companies to commence proper doorstep-to- doorstep delivery of relief materials to old people.
Volunteer groups like Social Coordinating units will also be used to share the items.
Olusanya expressed shock that in many communities that her committee visited to share relief materials, many people ignorantly thought COVID-19 was a “rich man’s virus”, thinking that the poor was immune to it.
Olusanya therefore enjoined Lagosians to stay indoors, adding that the relief packages would be delivered to their doorsteps.
Also, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso who returned my call lamented that the major problem bedeviling the relief package exercise was politicians trying to use it to score cheap political points, promising a change of strategy.