Nigeria in the Year of the Pandemic

Nigeria in the Year of the Pandemic

Sunday, January 3, 2021 12:00 pm

File: Doctors treating coronavirus patients



A review of events that define Nigeria in 2020


Undoubtedly, the biggest issue not only in Nigeria, but across the world all through the year 2020 was COVID-19. The virus, which sneaked on the world from the Chinese city of Wuhan virtually upended all plans and projects for the year globally, sending many countries into economic recession as businesses and social economic activities were put on hold as the global community battle the virus.

Yet, the battle against the virus will continue into the New Year in spite of the development approval of vaccines and ongoing vaccinations against the virus by many countries in the developed world.

For one, many countries including Nigeria are still experiencing upsurge in COVID-19 cases as the second wave of the virus continue to ravage the world.

The hope that the development of the vaccine will ultimately free the global community from COVID-19 restrictions has been tempered by the realization that it will take some time to produce enough vaccine for administration to people in all countries of the world.

In addition, many countries of the world, including Nigeria are still battling to procure the vaccines.

Mr Boss Mustapha, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF)

Battling COVID-19

Nigeria recorded its first case of COVID-19 on 27 February, 2020 when an Italian traveller was diagnosed of the virus in Lagos.

The Federal Government moved swiftly to control the spread of the of the virus in the country with the establishment of the Presidential Task Force on COVID -19 by President Muhammadu Buhari once it became obvious that the virus was in the country.

The task force, led by Boss Mustapha, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation has coordinated Nigeria’s response to COVID-19 at the national level working with the state governors.

The Presidential Task Force and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control NCDC and other stakeholders asked Nigerians to engage in washing of their hands with soap under running water for at least 20 seconds, use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer, wearing of nose mask and observance of social/physical distancing.

Aside the restrictions in business and economic activities, the pandemic also led to the closure of schools and suspension of sporting activities, including the 2020 summer Olympics which was to be hosted by Japan.

Generally, Nigeria’s largely underdeveloped health sector initially struggled to cope with the virus with the government at the federal and state levels and medical workers frequently at arms over provisions of Personal Protective Equipment and allowances.

But the government eventually got its hands on the handle of the pandemic with the establishment of at least one diagnostic laboratory in each of the states of the federation and isolation centres to treat COVID-19 patients with great contributions from the private sector.

Big Losses To The Pandemic

Nigeria has recorded 86,576 infections as at the 30 December and 1,254 deaths since the first confirmed case relating to the COVID-19 pandemic was announced. The virus claimed lives of top Nigerians in and outside of the government.

The first casualty of the virus in the country was former Managing Director of the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), Suleiman Achimugu, who died in Abuja on 23 March, 2020 shortly after he returned to the country from the UK where he had gone to take treatment for cancer.

The country was thrown into shock and general mourning in the early morning of 17 April when the presidency announced the death of President Muhammadu Buhari’s  Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari. Kyari was evacuated to private medical facility in Lagos from Abuja after he tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after he returned from a trip to Germany and the United Kingdom.

The death of the 67 year-old former banker and newspaper editor affected government’s business, with the Federal Executive Council and National Council of State meetings initially postponed indefinitely. However, after many weeks, the weekly FEC and monthly NEC meetings resumed, but in modified form as the proceedings are being done physically and in a virtual mode.


Another big loss to the virus in Nigeria was former governor of Oyo State Abiola Ajimobi who succumbed to the virus on June 25, 2020 at the age of 70 at First Cardiology Consultants Hospital in Lagos.

Other prominent loses to the virus include Ondo State Commissioner for Health,  Bayo Osinowo, the Senator representing Lagos East at the 9th Nigerian National Assembly and four-time member of Lagos House of Assembly, popular radio host, Dan Foster, Nasir Ajanah, the Chief Judge of KogiState and Aminu Adisa Logun, the Chief of Chief of Staff to Kwara State Government, Lagos lawmaker, Tunde Braimoh, ex-Edo Assembly speaker, Zakawanu Garuba , Senator BurujiKashamu and top Lagos politician Lanre Razak.

With the onset of the second wave of the virus late November, Nigeria has also lost Sam Nda-Isaiah publisher of Leadership newspaper who died on Saturday, December 12, 2020 and Professor Femi Odekunle, Nigeria’s first criminologist who died few days to the end of the year.

Economic Recession

The downturn in social economic activities as the world battle with the virus had a knock on effect on demand for oil, the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy globally. Thus, it was not a surprise when the Bureau of Statistics announced in November that Nigeria’s economy has entered recession for the second time in four years.

The economy fell into recession in 2016, for the first time in two decades, but recovered in 2017 and has been experiencing slow growth before the two successive dips of 2020.

According to NBS, Nigeria’s GDP contracted by 3.62% in the third quarter of 2020, after the negative growth of 6% recorded in the previous quarter.  “Over the first nine months of 2020, the cumulative GDP is therefore down by 2.48%,” NBS said. Analysts attributed the downturn in the economy to fall in oil prices as a result of fall in demand resulting from slowdown in economy brought on by the new coronavirus epidemic.

Nigeria was producing about two million barrels of oil a day, but the Covid-19 outbreak and falling fuel prices reduced production to around 1.4 million barrels.

Contributions of oil to GDP contracted in the third quarter by 13.89% against a decline of 6.63% in the second quarter of 2020 while the non-oil economic activities decreased by 2.51%. The decline was 6.05% in the second quarter.

#EndSARS Protest in Surulere, Lagos

The EndSARS Protests

As Nigerians were gradually picking up what is left of the year after initial relapse in the spread of the virus, they were confronted by the EndSARS protest which some analysts have likened to the uprising that followed the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election.

The protest, initially against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS of the Nigerian Police was sparked off by a video which went viral on Saturday 3 October 2020. In the video, a team of police SARS personnel on patrol were accused of accosting a young Nigerian in front of Wetland Hotel, Ughelli, Delta State, shot him dead and too his car away.

The video went viral on the social media with many youths coming up with their various ordeals in the hands of the SARS officers with the #ENDSARS hashtag trending on Twitter.  Fuel was literarily added to the raging fire when another story of killing of a Port Harcourt based musician by officers of the police squad began trending on 5, October. The 20-year-old musician, Daniel Chibuike, popularly called Sleek was allegedly killed where he was sitting with a friend in front of a hotel near his house in Port Harcourt.

The outrage on twitter was eventually taken to the streets with young Nigerians, activists and celebrities joining the protests across the streets of Nigeria. The protesters used twitter to coordinate their activities, especially spreading information on points of protests.

Initial efforts by the police to drive the protesters away from the streets using teargas, water cannons and live bullets led to more brutality and deaths. Cases of shooting of protesters were reported in Abuja and Osun while in Ogbomoso, Oyo State, one Jimoh Isiaq in Ogbomoso was killed by the police.

Celebrities across the world joined the protests by expressing solidarity with the protesters on twitter under the #EndSARShashtags, while Nigerians also organized protests in major capital cities of the world.  The protesters later came up with a list of five demands they wanted the Federal Government to meet before getting off the streets.

The demands include a ban on SARS immediate release of all arrested during the protests justice and compensation for all who died through police brutality in Nigeria, establishment of panel to investigate and prosecute all reports of police misconduct, psychological evaluation and retraining of SARS operatives as well as increase in police officers.

Though the Federal Government the Federal Government acceded to the demands which were personally presented to President Buhari by Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-olu, the protesters refused to leave the streets. They cited failure of government to fulfill similar commitments in the past as reasons for their actions.

#EndSARS Violence

But the protests soon degenerated into arson and violence in Lagos and other parts of the country as hoodlums took advantage of it to embark on looting arson and extortion as they set up blockades on major roads. In Lagos and some other parts of the country, hoodlums also attacked and burn police stations, police officers and other security operatives.

As the protests morphed into insurrection, many states were forced to impose curfew to curb the violence. Lagos was unarguably the epicenter of the protest. Governor Sanwo-oludeclared curfew over the state after the violence which followed the protest went out of hands with the burning of police stations, killing of police officers and general lawlessness across many parts of Lagos.

However, the bid to return calm to Lagos sparked another controversy with claims that soldiers deployed to enforce the curfew in Lekki, the epicenter of the protest in the state shoot some of the protesters. The alleged massacre led to more violence, arson, attack on law enforcement officers and their facilities, businesses, homes of politically exposed persons as well as public property in Lagos and other parts of the country.

At the backdrop of the destructions of public and private properties and businesses in the wake of the #EndSARSprotests, businesses have been counting their losses while economy experts have listed the immediate challenges the crises have thrown up against Nigeria’s struggling economy. Lagos State estimated that the replacement cost of the destroyed facilities at over N1 trillion, while overall cost to the private businesses have been put at several billions of US Dollars.

Mohammed Adamu, the Inspector General of Police also said 22 police personnel 205 Police stations and formations including other critical private and public infrastructure were also damaged by the hoodlums who hijacked the protests.

Insecurity Persist Across Nigeria

In addition to the COVID-19 and the EndSARS protest, Nigeria continues to battle the problem of insecurity throughout 2020. Boko Haram and its terror affiliates continue killings and attacks on the civilian population and Nigerian troops in the Northeast with the military struggling to contain the insurgency now in its 11th year.

FILE: Bandits

Also, the problems of banditry continue to fester in the in Northwest, Northeast and Central Nigeria with hundreds of villages now displaced across the state as the bandits continue their kidnapping and pillaging across the states. Also, the people in the Southern part of the country continue to be confronted with the challenges of kidnapping, cultism, armed robbery and other sundry crimes.

The National Assembly and Nigerians generally at various times during the year were compelled to ask the President to replace the service chiefs following degenerating security situation in various parts of the country.

Last month, the bandits kidnapped 344 schoolboys in Kankaratown of Katsina, the home state of the President. Ironically, the President was holidaying at Daura, his home state when the boys were kidnapped. The mass abductions came on the heel of slaughter of 44 farmer in  Zabarmari, in Borno State some weeks earlier by the Boko Haram insurgent group. The fear of replication of Boko Haram’s 2014 kidnapping of more than 270 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State was however averted when the boys were rescued about a week later.

But the security challenges have persisted across the country with kidnappings and killings by bandits, insurgents and other criminals going on across the country. Analysts believe that one of the preoccupations of the President in the New Year should be how to end the various security challenges confronting the country.

2023 Presidency Politics

In spite of the insecurity, politicians were busy, lumbering from one controversy to the other throughout 2020. The ruling All Progressives Congress, APC lost its only foothold in South-south to internal wrangling when the Governor of Edo State left the party to contest on the platform of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. However, APC was able to retain Ondogovernorship seat with the victory of Governor OluwarotimiAkeredolu in the October 10 governorship election. The issue of zoning and 2023 presidency dominated political discussion in 2020 and this is expected to continue in the new year.

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