COVID-19 Burden on Poor People – Massive Corruption – State Repression



The poor masses are fed up. The impact of the economic crisis accompanying the coronavirus pandemic has been very severe. During the lockdown millions of people starved in their homes. This is despite the fact that many of them could not even observe physical distancing in the face-me-I-face-you rooms and shacks they lived in, having to share toilets and kitchens in many cases. And not less than 30 persons were killed by security forces enforcing the lockdown, just like that.

The lifting of the lockdown has not brought much succour. Tens of thousands of workers have been sacked. The official unemployment rate (always a gross underestimation of the reality) which was 23.1% before the pandemic is now expected to rise to 33.6% before the end of the year.

The situation is only little better for those who still have jobs. Many have had their salaries slashed, including in the public sector. The bulk of working-class people who can only eke their living on a day-to-day basis face bombardment of sufferings.

Their pockets have run dry, to feed themselves and their families have become serious problem. And governments, particularly in Lagos state have taken to wanton demolition of their homes and workplaces. Just before the pandemic hit everybody, thousands of poor people in informal settlements were rendered homeless as their shacks were pulled down with no alternative provisions.

The situation has not gotten any better. In the past two months at least two mechanic villages were also demolished, destroying the means of livelihood for hundreds, if not thousands of families.

The federal government’s Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) barely scratches the surface of the problem. Social intervention programmes have been more of channels for the corrupt enrichment of those in government and their families and friends. Apart from the inadequacy of the ESP, there is no basis to expect that nepotism and patronage will not be central to determining who gets whatever benefits are distributed on the basis of the programme.

We are told that this situation is because we are all in the economic crisis together. We are told that the government is broke and can hardly do much better than what it is doing. We are asked to understand with the big corporations (making billions of naira as profits over the past few years), that they have all been hit by the sharp economic downturn.

But what we see day in, day out shows the lie of this argument. There is money where the money is. While hunger stalks the land, claiming lives, livelihoods and dignity in the homes of the poor, a few people are feeding fat on monies that could have been used to better our lot. The extent of revelations on corruption news this past few weeks has been nauseating.

The anti-fraud boss, Mr Magu was sacked because he had re-looted almost N40bn of recovered looted public funds. And the Niger Delta Development Commission, as we can now see, has been turned into a mega money-making machine for a few vagabonds in power, instead of being used to improve the living conditions of poor people in the Niger delta. Not less than N80bn was chopped by some rascals, including legislooters and executhieves over the last few months alone.

On top of this harvest of corruption the government has made repression its regular pastime. Lance Corporal Martins ldakpein and his wife were arrested because the soldier criticised how the war in the north east is being waged, putting him and his colleagues in avoidable danger. Journalists, students and even a 70-year old man have also been arrested for criticising General Muhammadu Buhari as the inefficient and anti-poor president that he is.

All these cannot be allowed to keep on going on. This is the time for us to rise up boldly to protest this degenerate order and fight for revolutionary change. Enough is enough!



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