Abuja (AFP) – Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday ordered the “cessation of all movements” for two weeks in the largest city of Lagos and the capital city of Abuja to stop the spread of the corona virus.
“All citizens in these areas should stay in their homes,” Buhari announced on Monday from 2200 GMT in a television speech to the nation.
“Travel to or from other states should be postponed. All shops and offices in these locations should be completely closed during this time.”
Buhari said the restrictions – which also affect the neighboring Ogun state of Lagos – do not apply to hospitals, grocery stores, or gas stations.
“Although these facilities are excluded, access is restricted and monitored,” he added.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation with around 190 million inhabitants, has so far registered only 97 confirmed infections and one death from COVID-19, but testing has been limited.
Officials have warned that the country could risk an “exponential” surge if contacts by suspicious airlines are not tracked down more quickly.
The authorities in Lagos, a sprawling megacity with a population of 20 million, had already closed schools, closed non-food stores, and restricted gatherings to restrict movement.
Enforcing a complete ban will be a daunting challenge for the authorities in a country where tens of millions of people live in extreme poverty and depend on their daily income to survive.
“We are fully aware that such measures will cause great difficulty and inconvenience to many citizens, but this is a matter of life and death,” said Buhari.
He said the authorities were “using relief supplies” to help people living in cities around Lagos and Abuja who were affected by their livelihood.
Social benefits worth two months “for the weakest in our society” would be transferred immediately, said the chairman.
The governor of the state of Lagos announced on Friday a program to initially supply 200,000 households in the city with two weeks of basic food.
The central government in Africa’s largest oil producer is already facing severe economic strain after the global pandemic triggered a collapse in crude oil prices.
Government revenue – which relies on oil – has declined and officials have announced that they will have to cut the budget for this year.