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FG to distribute food items as Lagos turns ghost town under Coronavirus lockdown

The Nigerian Government on Tuesday said it will be distributing food items to vulnerable households in the country during the coronavirus stay-at-home period, especially in Lagos; the seething economic hub of 20 million that residents say never sleeps – which was silenced as Africa’s largest city went into lockdown to stave off the deadly coronavirus. Gone were the traffic jams that snarl bumper-to-bumper out to the suburbs, gone was the hustle, the noise and the sweat that usually fills the crowded streets with endless life.

“We will distribute food rations to Households, with particular emphasis to vulnerable households in the front line states including Lagos, FCT, and Ogun,” Nigeria’s humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development minister Sadiya Umar Farouq said in a statement. “To this end, we would be expanding our safety net programmes to include more vulnerable people whose conditions may be exacerbated as a result of the unintended consequences of the lockdown.”

President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday ordered the restriction of movements in Nigeria’s capital city Abuja and Lagos, which are the hardest hit by a coronavirus in the country. These measures which were extended to Ogun state because of its close proximity to Lagos, Buhari said, are the best and most efficient way to avoid getting infected is through regular hygienic and sanitary practices as well as social distancing. Buhari noted that business closures in the nation’s capital city, Lagos and Ogun State will cause many citizens inconveniences but urged them to see it as a sacrifice for the good of the country.

Farouq, however, said she has briefed the FCT Minister and the governors of Lagos and Ogun state on the social interventions provided with the compliance of the presidential directive. “We will continue with the Cash transfers to households, using data mined from the National Social Register, while we rapidly expand the National Social Register to immediately capture more households to benefit from the cash transfer programme,” Farouq said.

The minister said the ministry will help Nigerians reduce the hardship caused by the outbreak of coronavirus which necessitated a stay-at-home order by the government. After President Buhari ordered residents to stay indoors and all movement to cease from Monday evening, the singing of birds and the hum of generators were the only sounds to be heard on the first morning of the shutdown in Lagos. The waters of the lagoon were still, bridges that are normally impassable at rush hour were empty, and the vendors that sell their wares to passing traffic had vanished.

On a key highway leading to the capital, a group of boys playing football had replaced the usual mass of cars, buses and lorries. Police dressed in protective gear stopped vehicles coming into or leaving Lagos state and refused to let any deemed non-essential pass. A hundred trucks carrying cement from the company of Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote stood motionless in a line at one checkpoint. Police backed up by personnel from the city’s myriad of other security agencies checked identity cards of drivers before determining whether to let them by.

The Lagos state governor has urged security forces to be “friendly and civil” but officers have also been licensed to use force on those who do not comply. Officials insist the draconian measures are needed to halt the spread of a virus after 139 cases and two deaths were confirmed across Nigeria. Lagos is the hotspot with 81 infections detected so far.

Along the main road through the middle class neighborhood of Lekki, betting shops, mattress stores, churches, florists and scrap metal dealers had all closed their doors. But in the alleyways of the poorer district of Ajah there was clear anxiety and rising anger. Most of the people here have very little savings to fall back on. They live hand-to-mouth, relying on their daily earnings to survive. Police had passed by in the early hours to disperse the few people refusing to obey the lockdown. Food stores are allowed to remain open - and it seemed those hawking their goods by the side of the roads were being allowed to keep working. But it wasn’t much help as there were no customers.

Meanwhile, Lagos suburbs including Ajegunle, Apapa, Amuwo Odofin are expected to have WiFi services. The service, which is being championed by Fiam WiFi is expected to come in phases with focus on high-density, low-income areas and rural communities to provide affordable and reliable connectivity for the mass market. The Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Fiam WiFi, said the firm will install hotspots across the state. He disclosed that the firm has started with 25 hotspots in Ajegunle with plans to install another 100 over the next six months.

According to him Amuwo Odofin, Alimosho, and Apapa will be covered during the first phase. Surulere, Oshodi, and Isolo are billed for the second phase. Shomolu, Mushin, Kosofe, Ikeja, and Agege are scheduled for the third phase and Ifako Ijaye, Lagos Island, Badagry, Ikorodu, and Ojo will be added in the fourth phase of its 18 month rollout plan. Emphasizing that access to affordable connectivity should be for everyone.

Marinho explained that the Fiam WiFi network will be strategically built to hold concurrent users of about 10 per cent of the population of designated communities. The company has partnered with Dolphin Telecom and Vodacom who provide broadband speed bandwidth.

He also stated that as part of the company’s community-driven policy, customer engagement and maintenance teams will be sourced from residents of the communities it serves, thereby creating employment opportunities for many. In addition the company has partnered with the local government to provide WiFi hotspots in every primary school in Ajegunle.

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