“During the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic, I sent my wife away to her father’s house because I had nothing to give her. I lost my source of daily living because of the COVID lockdown. I even contemplated joining crime due to the financial pressure I was under. I had two options on my mind, to go to the streets and rob or to start begging.”
This was the reality of Shagari Hussaini, a Keke Napep driver who resides in Zaria City, Kaduna State Nigeria. Many people across Nigeria were affected by the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. The changes in their lives have remained the same and only a few have been able to get their lives back. The national rate of poverty as shown by the National Center for Biotechnology Information shows an increase of 8.7% points from a base of 43.5%, which equates to 17 million more people falling below the poverty line in 2020.
Shagari was hit by the impact of COVID-19 and it changed his life in a way he didn’t expect. He had to make difficult decisions to help him cope with his situation. One of the hard decisions he had to make was to send his wife away, back to her father’s house for the lack of food to eat in his house. He had lost his source of income with the lockdown and therefore had no means to cater to his young family. He can be seen as one of the 64.1 Poorest Nigerians who depend on their daily work to make a living. According to the Covid-19 Impact Monitoring Report, April 2021, only 20.9% of this group of the poorest, depend on their family members as their source of money, while 5.6% depend on their spouses for money for their daily living. Shagari probably made up the number of those who could not rely on his spouse or family members for such support and had to send her back to her father’s house.
Apart from sending his wife away, Shagari also contemplated going into crime as an option to survive. He also sent away all his dependants due to the economic hardship that came with the pandemic. He shares his full experience in a podcast with Click Naija. Shagari wishes that the government would provide more jobs so that the lingering impact of the COVID-19 lockdown can be reduced.
In Kaduna State Nigeria, two major occurrences that have impacted the lives of citizens in the past 2 years are COVID-19 and Insecurity. The impact of COVID-19 for many citizens is mainly economic as it affected their source of livelihood. These problems have lingered and have been increased even further by insecurity. Those in the private and the informal sectors were affected as well. The measure of the impact may differ depending on the sector of the society, but for the artisans on the streets who depend on their handwork daily to make a living, the impact was almost total as many of them lost almost everything.
To cushion the effect of the pandemic, the Kaduna State government put out interventions at different levels. The Kaduna State Internal Revenue Service (KADIRS) introduced Covid-19 tax incentives to cushion the effects of the pandemic on taxpayers in 2020. In addition to other palliatives that it had earlier rolled out.
A statement issued by the Executive Secretary of KADIRS, Dr. Zaid Abubakar, listed the new incentives to include ‘’extension of the deadline for filing tax returns, waiver of penalties and interest for late filing of returns, and tax rebate.’’
“The Kaduna State Government is granting the incentives in accordance with Sections 95 (1) and 127 of the Kaduna State Tax (Codification and Consolidation) Law, 2016.“Dr. Zaid Abubakar, Executive Secretary, KADRIS
Dr. Abubakar also said that Kaduna taxpayers will be given ‘’ grace periods for payment of consumption tax by the entertainment and hospitality sector, PAYE by private schools and persons subject to presumptive tax.’’
For Hussaini, who may not be on the list of the beneficiaries of these tax waivers, the physical palliatives which were provided was an action that helped him stabilize mentally and also helped him to bring back his wife whom he had sent away due to the hardship of the pandemic. Hussaini testified that he had second thoughts as to going into crime because one of his bosses from the market, remembered to give him palliatives. In Kaduna State, COVID State Task Force was instituted and they led the management of logistics for the distribution of the CACOVID palliative which was carried out LGA by LGA, led by senior members of Kaduna State Government (KSDG) and the LGA team.
In the wake of the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic, the Kaduna State Government was one of the first in Nigeria to take precautionary actions to implement and enforce the protocols of COVID-19 to ensure the safety of lives. In trying to enforce the COVID-19 protocols, officials were commissioned to carry out the actual enforcement at different levels. This gave Kaduna State a good ranking in terms of enforcement of these protocols.
However, since the lockdown was relaxed, some citizens still feel the impact of the pandemic beyond the lockdown due to other factors that frustrate their daily hustle for daily bread, such as consistent rise in food prices, unemployment, and tussles with these law enforcement officials on the roads.
As a driver who tries to make his money daily, Shagari Hussaini specifically complained bitterly about the daily tussles he faces with some law enforcement officials from the Kaduna State Traffic Law Enforcement Agency, KASTELIA whom he said harass the road users in the course of carrying out their duties. For him, this is a hindrance to his daily effort to make ends meet. He said the KASTELIA and the police joined forces to ensure that people complied with the COVID-19 protocols during the lockdown. But since after the lockdown, he still feels hindered by some of their activities which he thinks is beyond their actual assignment.
He wishes the government would put in place other authorities to checkmate their activities. Hussaini thinks that the government should introduce daily payment from transport businessmen like himself which would give them access to work for the day, rather than have the KASTELIA on the road extorting them of their hard-earned money. The Kaduna State House of Assembly had before the pandemic urged the management of the Law Enforcement Agency KASTELIA, to call its marshals to order and stop harassing road users while discharging their duties. Husaini thinks that such a call needs to be made again. He also called on the Kaduna State government to improve on employment of young people to reduce the impact of the pandemic and dissuade them from considering or going into crime.
The recovery from the economic impact is slow for some people as they deal with these challenges daily. In June 2021, The International Monetary Fund (IMF) revealed that though the Nigerian economy has started to gradually recover from the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the employment level continues to fall dramatically, and with other socio-economic indicators, far below pre-pandemic levels. This indicates that many people who fell below the poverty line during the pandemic never recovered from it.
Another factor that has made the challenges of COVID linger is the insecurity situation. But, despite the hardship that COVID presented some people feel those challenges were easier to deal with than that of insecurity. Attahiru Bafarawa, is a Taxi driver who lives in Anguwan Mahauta in Zaria Local Government of Kaduna State. He thinks that the insecurity came to prolong some of the problems of COVID and heighten the challenges. For him, the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing. He says that the impact has reduced but just a little because people keep referring to COVID as the reason for the increased prices of their goods. According to the Selected Food Price Watch, in July 2021, rice, oil, and yam each were sold in Kaduna State, for N338, N515, and N193 respectively per KG and liter as of January 2020. As of July 2021, each of those commodities went for N411, N739, and N308 respectively.
“With COVID you were safe when you were in your house on lockdown. But with the insecurity situation, even if you are in your home, you could be picked up. If you were outside you could still be picked up by bandits or kidnappers.”Attahitu Bafarawa, Taxi Driver, Kaduna State
Attahiru says the insecurity only added fears to the existing problems that came with COVID. He thinks that the government needs to do more in calling out and punishing those caught to be involved in the crimes that concern insecurity to serve as a deterrent to others who may be considering the way of crime as an option. He shares his views with Click Naija in a podcast interview.
Binta Adamu is a seamstress in Zaria, Kaduna State and she takes a flashback at her most challenging moment during the heat of the COVID-19 lockdown.
“As a mother, it was not easy for me to stand by and watch my son cry in pain from sickness, with no place to access medical care and no way to get food to feed my other children. I felt very bad.”Binta Adamu, A Seamstress in Zaria City, Kaduna State Nigeria.
She says it is an experience she never wishes to have again. She has since begun her business again and is grateful to have her source of livelihood back. However, she says insecurity has not fully allowed her to recover from the challenges that COVID caused.
Binta Adamu feels that the security personnel need to be well equipped to have the confidence to fight back the bandits. According to Binta, ‘in the end, it is the masses who are at the receiving end of the impact of either COVID or Insecurity.’
World Bank in its Nigeria Development Update (NDU) shows that the pandemic has disproportionately affected the poor and most vulnerable people, and without more deliberate measures to mitigate the impact of the crisis, the number of poor could increase by 15 to 20 million by 2022. Every state of Nigeria has a proportion to contribute to increasing or helping to reduce this number through deliberate measures that actually affect the poor and vulnerable.
Amongst the recommendations made were enhancing macroeconomic management to boost investor confidence, safeguarding and mobilizing revenues, supporting economic activity, access to basic services, and providing relief for poor and vulnerable communities. These solutions to the problems and realities of common citizens would sound somewhat high and farfetched but would have a direct and positive impact on the lives of the likes of Hussaini, Attahiru, and Binta if directly implemented by the government in a way that touches them.
Story: Ehizogie Ohiani
CLICK NAIJA 2021