COVID-19 Pandemic and Corruption in Nigeria

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Oghenekevwe Odima, Esq.

The COVID – 19 pandemic which is currently ravaging over 180 countries has again brought to light the need for massive investment in healthcare. The world is on a standstill with daily lives altered and economies shattered. All over the world, countries are battling to save lives and their economies. The situation is so dire that countries which leaders of developing countries have always run to in search of medical care are struggling to cope with the pandemic. In Nigeria, politicians have been forced to rely on the Nigerian healthcare system which they have neglected over the years.

Since the return to democracy in 1999, successive Nigerian governments at the Federal and State levels have failed to make the necessary investments in healthcare and many other critical sectors of the economy. It is disgraceful that a country that has earned over 500 billion dollars in oil revenue cannot boast of 500 ventilators for a population of about 200 million people. The neglect is so glaring that the once “giant of Africa” is struggling to develop a simple testing kit hence the low daily testing figures. As it has become customary, poor Nigerians are always at the receiving end of poor governance. The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) must be commended for its efforts in trying to combat the spread of the virus despite the obvious lack of funding by successive governments. If the rate of infection in other countries is anything to go by, then a surge in Nigeria will be devastating. It is obvious that we do not have the capacity to handle tens of thousands of cases at the same time.

Nigeria is in this situation because of the greed of the political class who are bent on converting tax payers money for their personal use. The Executive and Legislative arms are filled with individuals who are bent on satisfying their egregious lifestyle rather than meeting the immediate and long term needs of the citizens. These corrupt politicians more often than not have no known source of income and therefore see public service as a means of money making and have failed to render the right kind of leadership that this country badly needs. While we cannot absorb previous administrations of poor leadership, the current Buhari administration has shown in the last 5 years not to have the needed capacity to run an efficient and purposeful government.

At this time of this pandemic, reliance must not be placed on politicians as we must all take our destiny in our hands. Every Nigerian must make an effort to practice social distancing and proper hygiene because we must first be alive to make ends meet. While the current lockdown imposed by the Federal and state governments is painful considering that the majority of Nigerians live on their daily struggles, it is nevertheless necessary at this time. Staying home in Nigeria is not pleasant because of lack of electricity and poor internet access occasioned by corruption.

The lack of a proper economic plan to cushion the financial effect of the lockdown is one of the failures of the current Nigerian government. Now that it is obvious that the lockdown will last for a long time, the Federal and State governments must come together as a matter of urgency and decide to deliver direct cash payments to Nigerians in this time of need. The government has all the data it needs to pursue this policy directive if it has the political will and understands the purpose of public service. A combination of the consumer data from banks and telecommunication companies is a good place to start. In addition, government intervention is needed in the price control of essential commodities. Traders and businessmen should not be allowed to unreasonably exploit Nigerians in this difficult time. The Attorney General of the Federation and that of States should wake up from their slumber and do the needful. It is unfortunate that many of our public office holders are unaware of the duties of their office. We must urgently take these steps to prevent a situation where more death will be recorded from economic deprivation than from the pandemic.

One hopes that the Nigerian political class will learn to invest in the critical sectors of the economy and understands that public service is not for selfish purposes. On the other hand, citizens must be ready to demand for good governance as the failure of the political class will always come around to haunt us all.
Stay safe.

Odima wrote in from Lagos