The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) recorded 1,145 new cases of COVID-19 cases on 17 December 2020, marking the first time the country recorded more than 1,000 cases in a day. This second wave presents great threats as most people have relaxed their observance of the precautionary measures – wearing masks, social distancing, fumigations, and the enforcement has largely stalled.
In an earlier report, SBM Intelligence monitored the range of health, economic and social impact of the pandemic and the measures adopted by the government to fight against it. In the opening week of January, we conducted a survey covering the 36 states of Nigeria and Abuja to survey citizens’ opinions on the second wave of COVID-19 Pandemic, a second lockdown and their perception of the vaccine expected to arrive in the country at the end of January 2021.
Our researchers visited all 36 states of the country and the Federal Capital Territory to capture the varying effects that the pandemic has on each of the states. A majority (68.8%), of our respondents believe that COVID-19 is real, while 16.7% believe that the coronavirus disease is not real. Ekiti, Enugu, Kogi, Nasarawa and Sokoto states had less than 50% of their respondents who felt that the virus is real. Our interviews revealed that sceptics cite the low death rate as their reason for their lack of belief, and these states have relatively low official death rates, Ekiti (7), Enugu (21), Kogi (2), Nasarawa (13) and Sokoto (20) compared to states with high death rates as Lagos (250), the FCT (106) and Edo (117).
In most of the states (23), a large majority of the respondents do not think that people are taking the right measures to prevent COVID-19 in their states. It is only in Bauchi, Delta and Osun that more respondents believe that people are taking the right measures.
Citizens’ perception on the vaccine against the COVID-19 pandemic is fragmented. Only 39.9% of the respondents said they will take the vaccine. An almost equal proportion of respondents (35.9 %) said they will not take the vaccine which the government announced is to arrive in the country at the end of January, and 24.1% are unsure of their position at the moment.
Like other vaccines, there are mistrust issues associated with the COVID-19 vaccine. In interviews with some respondents who are opposed to the vaccine, we filtered a number of misconceptions about the vaccine. Some respondents held that it is a religious war to contaminate the children of God with evil substances. Some believe that the vaccines are a tool to depopulate Nigeria, while others expressed concern about the effectiveness ratio and the side-effects that the vaccine might have. Some other persons were not completely opposed to the vaccine but were more concerned with the thoughts of being used as guineapigs for drug trials. The North-East is the only region where a majority of respondents said they will take the vaccine against the Coronavirus Disease when it is available. In other zones, most respondents were either unsure or opposed to taking the vaccine.
Nigerians are uncertain about the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of January as promised by the Federal Government. 47.6% of the respondents expressed this uncertainty, while 31.2% of respondents think that the vaccine will not arrive at the said time. This response also points to the low level of trust that the citizens have for their government.
63.3% of Nigerians are opposed to another lockdown, although still a majority, it is a lower percentage from our last survey where 90.24% were opposed to the idea of another lockdown. In almost all the states, a majority of respondents are opposed to another lockdown except for Abia and Gombe where a slim majority agree that another lockdown would be necessary if the cases continue to rise.
Most Nigerians recognise that the virus is real, but are unwilling to consistently follow prevention protocols. Feeding off deep-seated economic anxieties, a majority is firmly opposed to another lockdown, pointing to the fact that if declared, it may not be adhered to. In some states, it has forced a change of behaviour. In Ondo, increased reliance on native medicine has been reported, with some believing it will prevent them from contracting COVID. In Imo, a greater sense of community and health awareness was reported.
One under-reported aspect of the pandemic is its impact on educational attainment, especially in the crucial primary and secondary school stages. Those who have the means to pursue online learning have seen their education carry on with minimal disruption, while those who cannot – which constitute the vast majority of school children in Nigeria – have been left behind. For many, their only means of attaining education is through in-person schooling, and there are few if any federal or state-owned educational institutions that provide this. In so doing, the gap between those who can and can’t continue to grow.
Any assessment of the pandemic’s far-ranging impact on Nigerians has to incorporate the consequential fact that it has exposed glaring gaps, political inefficiencies and structural defects in the country’s political, economic, health and social infrastructure which has left it overwhelmed and wholly ill-equipped to address the most pressing challenge the country has ever faced as a sovereign state. The current administration, with its hands filled with addressing worsening economic conditions, a decade-long insurgency and deepening political fragmentation, has not shown the leadership necessary to get a handle on a raging epidemic. As with many things concerning Nigeria, the responsibility for cracking the code of managing the coronavirus devolves back to political leadership. It’s time for leadership to step up.
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