Lockdown: Petty Traders Laments Low Patronage in Abuja
By Dim Oba
The news was not cheerful nor believable since February 27, 2020, when Nigerians woke up to hear that an Italian has been confirmed positive to the Coronavirus otherwise known as Covid-19 in the country. The Federal government of Nigeria has come up with various measures to contain the spread of the virus.
First, the Lagos State government came up with measures to contain and preventive a possible spread of the virus in the most populated city in Nigeria. Despite these efforts by April 1st, the country witnessed about 179 cases and 2 death within the period as announced by the National Centre for Disease Control with Lagos State taking the lead with number of infected persons.
With the increasing figures daily, the Federal government of Nigeria came up with more stringent measures leading to a lockdown in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun. Before, President Muhammadu Buhari’s declaration on a total lockdown on March 29 in a national broadcast, there has been internal mechanism by authorities of the FCT to restrict the movement of persons.
Surprisingly, the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja has the second largest number of infested persons in Nigeria and this is a great concern to the government. Despite several efforts to contain the spread, the number increases daily putting the figure of infected in the FCT at 35 as at April 1st.
With the lockdown in force, a group of residents in the FCT is not finding the situation palatable as their source of livelihood depends on daily businesses. Our correspondent, who went around the metropolis to see the level of compliance to the order said although residents are willing to comply but are finding it difficult to feed and meet their daily demands.
Dope Adewale, is a petty trader sells boiled egg around Garki within the FCT police command and its environ. She was seen covering her bowl of boiled egg under a shade along the major express. When our correspondent approached her to know why she is standing by the road when she is suppose to be inside, she said, “I came out to sell because if I don’t sell today, I may not eat”, with a faint smile she replied.
She continued, “Am aware, the government said there should be no movement, stores are lockdown, police and other security personnel are beating people they see other, but if people like me stay at home, it is not Corona virus that will kill us but hunger.
“I usually sell at least three crates of eggs everyday but since this virus came with the restrictions from government, things have turn downwards. I find it difficult to sell half crate of the egg because I cannot freely enter the places I usually enter. All the places are lockdown and people are indoor. Petty traders like us are the grass suffering from the virus.
“When police is everywhere, how can we sell”, she responded to a question “even, when the virus has not come, we are always been chased not to talk of when there is a ‘genuinue reason’, if care is taken, you may lose your goods. Don’t you see the way, I cover my goods? Before, I approach you will access you well before I let you know what I am selling.
For her hope of survival in the coming days, this is what Dope said, “I know the coming days will be more difficult for us but for now, let’s use this period that we can do ‘hide-and-seek’ to sell to survive, only God knows tomorrow”.
She called on government to remember petty traders, she insisted that there is need to cater for them in these trying period as they cannot go out as usual insisting that those of them that they earn their living by going out daily to buy and sell before they meet their needs.
She is optimistic that the lockdown will not go beyond the 14 days period as announced by government but Dope is not alone in this optimism as I met another food vendor who looked worried and full of anxiety.
Chinyere, she only gave me her first name. She has four children with a husband who is a bricklayer. Her complain bothers on the fact if she and her husband are lockdown in the house for 14 days than it is better to be infested by virus so as to be taken care of by government.
“What do you expect me to say, Madam journalist. Business has gone down in the last one week. Food is essential but people are stocking their homes with food stuffs but we that don’t have savings but depend on our sale are bitting our fingers in the lockdown.
“We are in the period of hide and seek by few of our customers while majority of them are gone. Look at that construction site, all the workers are gone, I had potential customers from there. While we are mindful of the spread of virus, we are not mindful of how household will survive”, she said.
As the lockdown assumes greater dimensions, is the government ready with pallatives measures to help the poorest of the poor?