Covid-19 Lockdown Triggers Robberies and Killings in Lagos and Ogun States

President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday, April 13, 2020 announced a 14 day extension of the Covid-19 lockdown which began on Tuesday, 31st March 2020, in Lagos and Ogun states, as well as the Federal Capital Territory.

As at that Monday, the total number of confirmed cases of the Coronavirus infection in Nigeria had risen to 343, spreading across 19 states. The highest number of infected cases -192, being in Lagos. 

The lockdown, which banned public gatherings, and movements, allowed for only a few essential businesses to continue operations. Medical service providers, food generation and distribution companies, power and petrol distribution companies and security companies. 

Majority of the working populace of Lagos are daily workers – their sustenance comes from what they can make per day. These are road transport workers, hawkers, bricklayers, tailors, hairdressers, laborers and other professions in that category. 

The Coronavirus lockdown in Lagos is right on the heels of the Keke and Okada ban. The ban caused untold hardship on Lagosians, with several pedestrians having to walk miles to their destination when they would have easily taken an okada or a keke. 

Keke and okada riders also lost their source of income and there was an increased level of stress and angst amongst the city's occupants as a result of a hike in traffic caused by increased demand for Uber and Bolt rides when an okada or a keke would have sufficed. 

When the ban was announced, no real measures were put in place to alleviate the suffering that this decision will cause for people. 

Over the past couple of days, a spate of robberies has spread through the cities of Lagos and Ogun. Robberies, violence and fear. Some areas within the Lagos mainland have been particularly hit by these robberies – Agege, Ogba, Iyana-ipaja, Egbeda, Abule Egba and others within this axis. 

These are areas occupied by the middle class majority in Lagos Nigeria, who are themselves trying to survive their harsh realities. These are densely occupied areas that don't enjoy constant electricity, running water, good roads, nor good security. 

Residents within these areas have had to provide their own security in the midst of these robberies because of the slow response of the Nigerian police to their outcry. 

Members of these communities took to social media to cry for help. Pictures of small vigilante groups burning tyres and carrying weapons for self defense flooded social media platforms. 

Speaking with a resident of Agege about these attacks, Kume Akpubi shares his experience, '… they were robbing in the next street, next thing everybody is burning tyres waiting for them. I think it was more of fear than actual robbery.'

Another resident in Oke-ira, Ogba, Ojo Maduekwe shares, '…there were sporadic gunshots. Guys in my area had to come out and put up fires for scare tactics.'

Efe Ukpebor, a resident of Alagbado shares her experience, 'the robberies started around the Easter weekend… I was up late one night and was hearing gunshots, there was no light… the third night, the vigilante groups came out… burning tyres and making a lot of noise to make the robbers know that people were awake and alert in the neighborhood.'

The city walks a thin line, tethering on the edge of chaos. Nigerians are fighting to protect their property, and stay alive and stay alive at the same time. We fight a war against a living, breathing, visible, enemy while the rest of the world battles an invisible enemy.

The Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, at a briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja on Tuesday, had this to say, 'We want to again sound a note of warning to criminals that are taking the opportunity of the lockdown to go from place to place, especially in Lagos mainland and any part of this to desist from doing that.

We have instructed all the Commissioners of Police, the AIGs in charge of zonal commands, to deploy all the resources available to them to make sure that criminals are not allowed to take the opportunity of the lockdown to commit their crimes.'

The two weeks extension of the lockdown is going to hit citizens even harder, making an already bad situation probably worse. 

Muhammadu Buhari in his speech on Monday night extending the lockdown said, 'the current social register will be expanded from 2.6 million households to 3.6 million households in the next two weeks. This means we will support an additional one million homes with our social investment programmes.'

He added, 'In the past two weeks, we announced palliative measures such as food distribution, cash transfers, and loan repayment waivers to ease the pains of our restrictive policies during this difficult time. These palliatives will be sustained.'

In a broadcast on Tuesday, March 14, Babajide Sanwoolu, Lagos state governor, announced the creation of the Daily Food Kitchen Programme, 'which will be an attempt, where on a daily basis we will be feeding 100,000 youths'. 

Will these measures be enough to discourage  the surge of robberies and violence in the country?  

 

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