ABUJA, NIGERIA - Computer specialist Michael Kundun left for work early Monday, as Nigeria's coronavirus lockdown eased at 6 a.m.
Kundun had not been to his shop in Abuja’s Nyanya Market since late March, when authorities announced the lockdown. When he opened, he had to clean and dust to get ready for business.
"It is going to be gradual," he said. "It's not going to be as it was from the beginning, but by the grace of God it will pick up. Business will pick up with time."
Nigeria relaxed its 35-day lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states following President Muhammadu Buhari's order, given last week during his national address.
Harm to economy
Buhari concedes the lockdown has hurt the Nigerian economy, especially in non-essential sectors that depend on daily income for survival.
Much like Kundun’s business.
"The lockdown affected my business drastically," he said. "In fact, I found it difficult to work. I found it difficult to meet my customers."
But the decision to relax the lockdown came as Nigeria's number of coronavirus cases has been increasing.
Daily figures publicly reported by Nigeria's Center for Disease Control doubled in the last week, reaching more than 2,500 on Monday. By Thursday, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University in the U.S., the total had climbed past 3,100.
This is why critics like Abuja resident Abubakar Ahutu have challenged the president’s position.
"I'm not happy about the planned relaxation of the lockdown," Ahutu said. "If the federal government or the president in particular is having good advisers, I think it is very bad for them at this point in time to start thinking about reopening the lockdown."
Before easing lockdowns for certain areas, authorities issued new regulations, including an overnight curfew, the mandatory use of face masks in public and strict social distancing restrictions.
But thousands across Abuja city on Monday flooded marketplaces and banks, thereby violating the physical distancing orders.
Look at Ghana
Economic analyst Audu Siyaka had this warning:
“Ghana tried to ease their lockdowns, and what happened was not palatable." They had to reverse their initial decision. I'm not saying that may happen to Nigeria, but it's a likelihood, because of our population."
Only 17,000 people have so far been tested for the coronavirus in Nigeria — an exceptionally small number when compared with figures in other African nations. But Buhari has promised aggressive testing and contact tracing in the coming weeks.
Critics will hold him by his words.
By Timothy Obiezu