We all know the situation of things worldwide now, not just in our own immediate community.
We know the impact COVID-19 has had on our daily lives and our economy. While people are required to stay at home to slow the spread of the virus or stop it completely, the directive is not very convenient for many Nigerians, especially those who live from hand to mouth.
People who earn their living on a daily basis who are now handicapped by their current reality without any alternative.
It is easy to sit in your house and judge those who have refused to obey the order when you have no fear of starvation. The government has made all sorts of promises on giving relief packages to the disadvantaged people to help them cope with the impact of the lockdown on their livelihood, but many people have not benefited from promises.
This has led to not only defiance from the desperate citizens, but insecurity and unrest in areas most affected by the lockdown.
To help maintain law and order, the government has deployed security personnel in key areas. Unfortunately this decision has in some instances only done more harm than good.
There have been reports of military men killing civilians for violating the stay at home order.
Two weeks ago someone was killed in Warri, Delta State and last week, two people were reportedly killed in Edo State apart from some other reported extra judicial killings and physical abuse that are not as widely reported.
An incident happened two weeks ago in-between Ondo and Ekiti States. A young mother in her early thirties who happened to be a widow was beaten up on her way to work. She is a nurse in a government hospital in Ondo State, but lives in Ado-Ekiti to be closer to her children who live with her parents.
Due to her status as a widow and her job as a nurse which keeps her busy, her parents look after the children while she makes the commute in-between both states to look after her children.
While going to work on the day of the incident, she was stopped by a soldier who questioned her movement. She explained that she’s a nurse going to resume duty as evidenced by her uniform. The explanation was apparently not sufficient for the soldier leading to an argument between both parties and the soldier resorted to physical abuse. Let’s us bear in mind that essential workers are exempted from the lockdown and health workers are part of the essential workers.
The case was brought to the attention of female lawyers who were not only angry at the fact that she was unfairly treated, but also angered that she got such treatment while only trying to do her job regardless of the immense danger currently faced by health workers.
This woman whose husband was also a medical doctor who died in an accident while commuting between states for his job and family five years ago also runs the risk of losing her own life on duty during this pandemic but she opted to report for duty.
The human rights lawyers took the case to court to get justice for this woman who only has God to fight for her, otherwise, not only to get justice for her and other essential workers who have been harassed and abused in the course of doing their jobs but to serve as deterrent to others like that soldier who may want to take advantage of the situation.
The soldier who was probably advised by people kept going to see the woman to apologise so that she can drop the case which had gained notoriety across both states as her story resonated with a lot of people.
The second time he went to her house he told her his name and in her own words her six year old daughter said “So you are my daddy’s namesake and you want to kill my mummy.” It was later discovered that the soldier had only recently completed a four year prison sentence and he is worried about the punishment that awaits him. The woman’s parents who are pastors pleaded with their daughter on his behalf which led to her dropping the case against him.
This soldier had no idea if this woman has underlying health issues herself which could have led to death with the severity of the beating he gave her thereby rendering the children orphans. Listening to that little girl say those words must have brought out the humanity in him if there is any left there.
While it is imperative for the security agencies to perform their duties, it is also important that they carry it out without neglecting their humanity.
If the government wants people to obey the stay at home order, incentives should be provided to help people stay at home as hunger can be as lethal as the covid-19 virus. This will reduce the need for non-essential workers to go out. It will also reduce the burden on the security agencies who have to enforce the law.
While all these are being done, security agencies and members of the armed forces should also remember that the people are not the enemy, and therefore discharge their duties with compassion for their fellow citizens. Otherwise, the virus will not be what is killing Nigerians, it will be our own wickedness towards one another.
*Funmito Babawale, a public commentator writes from Lagos