Anybody underestimating the strength of the world wide coronavirus pandemic is doing so at their own risk, more so in the face of its evident economic consequences.
One thing appears very clear, nobody is spared, one way or the other; the big, the small, the rich and the poor, but in matters of this magnitude the poor always bear the greater brunt inevitably. They were already down; therefore the pandemic has obviously become the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
The artisans are part of the social strata that must go out on daily basis to look for what to eat otherwise they would suffer several consequences including hunger. What then is the faith of these group of people in the face of the Corona virus with its attendant lockdown and stringent guidelines of mask wearing, social distancing, non movement and all that?
There have been out-cries by this category of Nigerians who form a critical mass of the country. Many have also called on the government to open the economy and allow movements so that they would go back to their usual business to find food for themselves, families and wards, pay house rents, light bills, transport which are part of human existence.
Many even query the essence of the lockdown that will obviously escalate hunger and then death. They opined that death is death whether as a result of coronavirus or hunger, adding that food is what the government which has entered into social contract to secure and ensure the welfare of its people must not deny its citizens. They argue that the government should allow them to go and fend for themselves. The artisans are the mechanics, plumbers, panel-beaters, electricians, plumbers, tailors, generator repairs and the likes.
Many of the artisans are married men and women who are breadwinners in their families while those that are not married have parents and siblings to fend for. In the face of the foregoing therefore this category of Nigerians have a lot of anger bottled up in their mind. They felt they were being unjustly locked down. Coping with daily life economic demands have become extremely difficult for them to bear.
Osondu, a welder “To feed a family of six for me is now hard”
Osondu, a welder in Ijesha Lagos lamented that the cost of doing his work is now too high and customers are no more patronising him due to the pandemic. He said he has even become lazy due to idleness, adding that before the Corona virus he lived his house as early as 6a.m. for his workshop to start work in order to meet up with his appointments, but now he wakes up anytime he likes and only strolls to his office to see if somebody is looking for something he can do for such a person. He said that life itself is not serious anymore.
Food has also become a hot cake, to feed a family of six for him is now hard, but before the pandemic he said a single contract which he would complete in two days was capable of feeding his household for two weeks and with enough savings he was able to build a small house in the village and in Lagos.
He disclosed that he would withdraw his children from private school and register them in private ones as soon as the pandemic is over.
“Do you know that it is no longer easy to feed, food has become a hot cake, to feed a family of six for me is now hard, but before the pandemic a single contract I did within two days was capable of feeding my household for two weeks and with enough savings I was able to build a small house in the village and in Lagos.
“Let me tell you what I have not tried before, I am thinking of withdrawing my children from Public schools and registering them in private ones as soon as the pandemic is over, it is that bad now.”
Femi Ola, an apprentice “Now it is only my parents that still manage to give me transport, no more savings”
Femi Ola is an apprentice learning mechanic for three years now, he has just one year to complete his apprenticeship before the Covid-19 pandemic struck. He had looked forward to his graduation by November this year, but all that is being dashed as not much has been learnt this year. He needed to hustle more and make savings in anticipation of his freedom, but as it stands now it is very obvious that he is going to add another year to complete his apprenticeship. He said his joy is that he is still alive; after all it is only the living that makes plans.
On how he gets money for savings he said, “My oga do dash us money when we do perfect work for him, you know, you do work and impress your oga, he would dash us money. Customers can give us money, and sometimes oga would send us to a far place to buy something for N2000, we can go there and get it for N1700, you know; that N300 is now mine. My parents still give me transport and feeding money because I am still learning work. So sometimes I trek, all these are sources of my savings, there is nothing there, I am not a careless spender.” But now it is only my parents that still manage to give me transport, no more savings.
Femi called on the authorities to open the economy “Government should do fast and allow us to move freely and even churches and schools should be allowed to open. It is when all these sections are working that we can talk of customers again. My oga has about four schools that come here to repair their buses, the same thing with churches, assorted number of churches, but since they don’t drive most of their vehicles it is affecting us badly.”
James Nwoke, Side Mirror Repairer “I thank God and even Government for the gradually relaxing the lockdown”
Nwoko repairs side mirrors of all categories of vehicles be it salon, buses and trucks at his shop on Ladipo Street in Olodi Apapa, he is ever busy, hardly has time for any other business. Nwoke said apart from the alternating market guideline, the pandemic did not affect his work. He said the only snag is that he is not immune to the effect of the sickness. He said after time in the office, he would pay transport to the house, give money to her wife or children who would go to market to spend the money that he has made. “When that happens you would see that it has affected me. If I do 10 to 15 pieces of side mirrors in a day which some I collect 300, others 500. On a good day I make N6000 to N7000.
“Now going by the rate of inflation in this country, by the time I am coming to my workshop, maybe it is only N1000 or N1500 that I will put inside my kolo (box for savings), sometimes I will not put at all because expenses, inflation is too much, light bill, owo afole (money for the person sweeping the yard) but we must thank God and even thank Government for the gradually relaxing the lockdown. Events are no longer as before when they lock us down, people nearly die.
“I don’t so much blame our government because this thing is happening in the whole world, but another thing many people are suggesting is whether our environment is not harsh to the sickness, many don’t actually believe in the existence of this thing, but for me, I have to believe so that I can protect myself, nothing is wrong in believing that it is real.”
Benson, Vulcanizer “I devised a means of managing the effect of the pandemic in my family”
Benson says he is feeling the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. His customers include okada, Keke, buses and private vehicles. He also services trucks. His work involves pumping tubes and patching punctured ones. Benson is always by the road side along Kirikiri Road in Apapa waiting for customers.
He charges N100 for pumping keke (tricycle) N200 for patching a Tyre, he continues to manage his work. On a good day Benson could have up to 20 customers, but is no longer the same. Any day he pumped 8 tubes and patched 5, he would go home thanking God, at least it would enable him to buy at least a derica cup of gari and rice.
He said he has devised a means of managing the effect of the pandemic in his family and that is that he has asked his wife to prepare a meal, and that is what the family would eat throughout the day. He said since the bird has learnt to fly without perching that he has learnt to shoot without aiming, “There is always a way out. Anybody that is not interested in measures should use his or her money to buy the food of their choice. I have devised a means of managing the effect of the pandemic in my family.
“I can’t kill myself, before Covid 19, I managed to provide them what they wanted according to my ability but now it is obvious that things are not moving fine. The first time I introduced the measure many murmured including their mother but I told them that is all I can provide.
“For instance we buy two derica cups of rice, it is the same ingredient they will use if it is just one, so instead of one derica, they try to make it two so that they will eat it in the morning and in the night. Afternoon is not part of my concern now.
It is only my small girl of 5years that we find something like garri to drink in the afternoon, sometimes gala so that she would not expose me with her crying when hunger disturbs her.”
Chidi Nda, Plumber “I have not seen anything good in coronavirus”
As a Plumber Chidiebere works with Building Engineering companies, maintains and attends to people’s plumbing needs. He said he has not seen anything good in coronavirus; he made it clear that the work has nosedived. Chidi as he is popularly called said his working material like Elbow which he used to buy N50 before is now N100, Tee was N70 but he now buys it N130, while sockets used to be N50 but now it is N90. He works on water sanitary and general plumbing.
He disclosed that people have suspended their projects as a result of covid-19, “Even the small work we do; we have not changed our own workmanship charges because customers always cry that they don’t have money. “I have not seen anything good in the govid-19, it is just evil.”
He added that it is now tough to feed oneself and family because there is no work, which most times stretches to weeks without a single call for a job. “In such a situation how do you feed and feed your family and aged parents? If you look at the situation now, crime has escalated; many young boys cannot bear it again, and crime is getting out of hand, women and prostitution has become synonymous. Do you know that before we were not hearing anything about phone theft? But all of a sudden phone theft has resurfaced and it is sad.
“Last month I lost my phone to pick pockets and when I went to the network office to retrieve the line, tens of people that were there also came complaining that they lost their phones to pick pockets, this is just one area. One million boys are there, kidnapping, burglary, haba! Government should open up the economy for normal activities because if things continue like this, the result may be difficult for the authorities to handle,” Chidi advised.