The Nigerian Guild of Investigative Journalists (NGIJ) has tasked the President Muhammadu Buhari led Federal Government to stretch further and expand palliative measures, putting into consideration the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on a vast majority of poor Nigerians, especially in cities.
The Guild maintained that livelihood was as important as lives, as poverty and hunger can drive people into vices that may terminate their lives.
Mr Israel Bolaji, NGIJ Vice President, Information and Strategy, said this in a statement released to the media on Wednesday.
Bolaji said a statement from the Federal Government indicating that Nigerians with over N5000 in bank account and those who buy over N200 recharge cards will not be assisted should be revisited.
The Guild described measures set in place so far, by the government, towards assuaging the economic effects of COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, as sparse and inadequate.
Bolaji said, “Before the coronavirus pandemic and the eventual lockdown, Nigerians especially the urban poor struggle to make a decent living, with multiple statistics indicating abject poverty in the cities.
“Even the average mid-income earners can not afford anything beyond the very basic, at most, as the increasingly high cost of living, sadly, accords a very low purchasing power to a decent sum.
“Practically speaking, what can N5000 do when averagely the PHCN and water bills, family feeding, children school fees, transportation and accommodation at the very lowest gulp over N100,000 monthly in the city?
“With N5000 in your bank account in a city like Lagos or Abuja, how can a family of five feed for more than a week, and that excludes all other essential bills”, he said.
Bolaji further noted that now, the right of poor Nigerians to fend for themselves had been taken away by the Federal Government due to the lockdown, it therefore, becomes the responsibility of Government to help out more people and not just a disputed few.
He appealed to governments at all levels to remember to protect livelihoods of the people and not just lives, as the nation fights hard to curtail the spread of the pandemic.
He expressed disdain to the fact that though billions of naira had been donated to Nigeria, from both local and international philanthropists and bodies, towards easing the strain caused by the lockdown and the pandemic as a whole, very little economic support has been offered to the people.
Bolaji argued further that the federal and state governments had allegedly made more money from the Coronavirus pandemic donations, than any other country in Africa, and despite this money, Nigerians are allegedly lacking the basic amenities that support general wellness.
He said, “You can’t even begin to imagine the plight of Nigerians, who have been observing the lockdown for weeks now, with increased prices of food commodities, inadequate preparations, and very little input from the government.
“Though many Nigerians have cried out on social media, about hunger, increase in food commodities price, electricity, and water challenges, in this time, their cries seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Can you imagine?”
He called on the Nigeria Government to assist Nigerians financially, nationwide, no matter how small even if they have to cut down on other ostentatious expenditures.
“Globally, hunger and hunger-related diseases like kwashiorkor and tuberculosis kill about 8.4million people every year and so there is more pandemic when it comes to hunger”, he ended.