Thousands of Nigerians have been left cut off from homes and businesses as states across Africa’s most populous nation have shut their borders to halt the spread of coronavirus.
Central Benue yesterday became the latest of Nigeria’s 36 states to ban all movement in and out, meaning swathes of the country have become impassable.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday ordered a total lockdown in largest city Lagos and the capital Abuja.
But a string of regional governors around the country have taken matters into their own hands and unilaterally ordered the closure of their state borders.
The governors — powerful players in Nigeria’s federal system — insist the strict measures are needed to contain the disease as Nigeria has so far registered 151 confirmed cases and two deaths.
But the moves have sown confusion and left many stranded.
Thousands have crowded on a bridge across the river Niger trying to cross between Delta and Anambra states in the oil-rich south of the country.
Emeka Okwudile lives on one side of the river but owns a shop in a market in a town on the other side.
“We have no option than to either adhere to the lockdown or cross the river Niger using canoes to access our shops,” he said.
Adewale Timiyin was travelling from his home in Lagos out to the east of the country when the barriers went up.
He said he had bribed a police officer to get by one checkpoint but there was now no way to proceed.
“We have to stay with a cousin pending when the lockdown will elapse,” he said.
SENEGAL TO OFFER FOOD ASSISTANCE
Senegal is making contingency plans to offer food aid to millions of people, a government notice published yesterday said, amid speculation as to whether coronavirus restrictions will tighten.
The government plans to purchase tonnes of rice, pasta, sugar and cooking oil in order to help some of the country’s poorest, according to a public tender published in local newspapers.
Senegal is one of West Africa’s economic bright spots, but nearly 40% of its roughly 16mn inhabitants live on less than $1.90 a day, according to the World Bank.
It is also one of the countries in the region worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The former French colony has recorded 190 cases to date, and it registered its first death on Tuesday.
Last week, Senegal declared a state of emergency and imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.
It has also shut schools and banned mosque prayers.
Many who work in the country’s large informal sector are suffering as more people stay at home, causing sales to plummet.
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