For many this pandemic was a leveler to all; both the rich, the poor, the middle class and even beggars all wished and prayed for the same thing which is for their immune system to be strong enough to beat this dreaded virus and with that, all practiced the various measures to stay safe but with this fear, came many other type of diseases from panic attack and all ailment related to stress and anxiety. Stay at home and practice social distancing if you must go out became like a primary rhythm sung to the ears of all with any given opportunity and space. In Nigeria we all adapted and are still adapting to this entirely new rule. Even when this lock down has been significantly reduced, I often time soliloquized to my self-wondering how Nigerians in the diaspora survived and fared in this lock down and quarantine period. In this article i interviewed continental chairman Nigerian in the Diaspora Europe (NIDO) and also few other people in the diaspora who discussed how they fared and survived through the lock down
As at 5th of June 2020 the total confirmed case in Nigeria is 11844 with 3696 discharged and 333 death with cross river being the only state not to record any case; also Lagos is the most affected by this infection with 5663 case. Sigh…we all hope and pray for the better and wish that a vaccine is made available soonest.
Also, according to an old report from TVC who interview a social commentator known as Kunle Falowo he said in Indianapolis where we lived school was short, every other thing was shot down because of this virus and at that time only 1500 people has died compared to now as at 6th June, 2020 at 14:48 GMT united states has 1,969,406 cases with 111,478 death and 738,729 recovered). He said a Defense protection act was started by president Trump which allowed companies to start making ventilators so as to augment for lack of ventilators. Furthermore, police was asked to stand down as people are scared with USA now over taking the epicenter of the virus. He also reiterated that the governor of the state Eric Holcomb asked everybody to stay at home, closed down schools and only essential works and grocery store were allowed so people could feed.
Also according to TVC report in chine, Director general of Nigerian in the diaspora gave a brief report that no Nigerian in china was affected by this virus and has urged Nigerians in chine to stay safe and that the ambassadors of Nigeria to chine would keep them safe with many Nigerian scared and wanting to be evacuated; the report in China as at present 6th June 2020 14:56GMT is 6,893,236 cases with 399,213 death and 3,376,426 recovered; 3,117,597 active case.
The interview with the chairman NIDO Europe Mr. Kenneth Gbandi was conducted through a videos call and this is what he had to share about the lockdown in Germany how it affected him and other Nigerian (transcribed):
Me: hello sir, when did the lockdown start in Germany?
Mr. Ken: Around March between the first week of March but I can’t be precise with the date but we just moved into the office and two weeks in the lockdown was imposed I think the 2nd week of March.
Me: Was there anything like government palliative there because in Nigeria here there was which didn’t get to everybody though so was here palliative?
Mr. ken: Absolutely, not only for citizens but for companies as you know Germany is one of the best mixed economy ,socialism and capitalism so they have program in place for every individual who because of the lockdown is out of work. The government made sure they continue to get there salary weather its full salary or half at least something to keep body and soul together.
Me: That leads to my next question which is for people who are immigrant and Nigeria student was there palliative ?
Mr. ken : I can’t speak on that with certainty but I can tell you that there was provision to take care of everybody ; how much, how far I do not know ,oh I just got confirmation that there was a loan for student who for good reason are affected so yes there is a loan and like I said there is provision for everybody as long as the Person is documented immigrant even for undocumented immigrant nobody will starve or nobody can starve because even if you are not given money or loan there are provision where people can get something to eat at the restaurant.
Me: You know we heard some stories about some immigrant especially African immigrant being treated unfairly was there anything like that in Germany during the lockdown ?
Mr. Ken: Well if you want to compare what happened in China absolutely not i can’t foresee such a thing happening in Germany definitely not to the best of my knowledge.
Me: So socially, how has the lockdown affected you personally ?
Mr. ken: Well I would say that it wasn’t quite different from my normal schedule the only difference was I can’t meet or we can’t meet in a large crowd or large setting; but there are certain exemption from the lockdown and being a consultant on many issues that borders on migration and integration of migrant into the system I had a window of opportunity to still continue to work and still continue the consultation effort so basically I was going to work but once or twice a week but from home I was working basically 24/7. So I continued working the only difference is it slowed down our interaction with the public and actually slowed down our being able to ,meet as much as possible but personally from my personal perspective we actually have continued to work during the lockdown and actually gave us the opportunity to finish the project we are working on so I would say that social wise interaction was limited but work wise we continue to work even as of today, .
Me: So as at now i know that Germany in terms of sport have started playing football so as at now how is the situation over there because in Nigeria presently the lock down has been ease to like 75% but we know that the cases are still going up especially in Lagos, Abuja and Kano so how is it over there ?
Mr. ken: So as you can read from various media Germany seem to be one of the best country able to put the spread of the various massively under control, basically 85 to 90% of the lockdown has been lifted and from all indication from next week we probably would have a total lifting of the lockdown; of course while it is totally lifted there are still services still requiring precaution like you can’t gather in certain space more than certain number of people and sport now like in football is played without spectator and limited officials so this are the restrictions in place but basically in terms of services and the rest of them Germany are almost getting near 100% lifting of the shut down so life has continued and of course they have restriction modalities if at any time an infection rate goes high compared to the number of people in that city square population or ratio of population to the ration of infection is high that state would be lockdown that is the procedure put in place so far it has not gotten to that.
Me: Do you have the statistics of Nigerian infected in the Diaspora?
Mr. Ken: Well we followed up to a certain number looking at basically up to 100 or 150 Nigerians but along the line we stopped for two reason which are it was getting totally high and we were unable to confirm if it was covid19 related cases or normal flu and because we are not the official agency responsible for compiling those statistics we were being careful not to give false statistic so based on that we stepped down perhaps before we did that its was 100 – 150 but it’s basically estimation but we are not in the position to confirm that statistics moreover most Nigerian who might or might not be affected are also have different nationality so it will be very difficult to tag them to Nigerian that is the problem we have and actually also those who are not carrying Nigerian passport cannot be classified as Nigerians even though from within the community we can classify them as Nigerian so statistically speaking it has to be the agency who can give you the accurate statistic so what we did is just guess work.
Me: So was there anything like evacuation from Nigeria to Germany?
Mr. Ken: Not to the best of my knowledge.
Me: My final question, moving forward will there be like palliative for Nigerian now that the lockdown has been relaxed in Germany and from Germany to Nigerian from NIDO ?
Mr. Ken: yes, the first one is as long as you are living in Germany the program do not differentiate nationality we see all citizens of Germany as same we treat them equally irrespective of country of origin on the case of palliative of Germany to Nigeria as you know as the chairman of Nigeria in the Diaspora we have initiative on the European level we initiated Covid Safe Initiative which basically is trying to raise money across Europe to deploy that money in Nigeria where necessary; well of course you understand the population of Nigeria any money we raise will look like a tiny drop of water in the ocean but then we want to identify with Nigerian and we are expecting to dispatched the money either directly to any of the agencies that have been in the fore front fighting this covid19 or to get equipment like sanitizers, mask etc. but then yes to answer your questions yes we initiated that we are one of the group in the diaspora to initiate that as a matter of fact and we have also been able to partner with some local organization across Europe were they not only raise palliative for Nigerians but also sent to specific local government area and cultural organization so we have been able to do that so yes we are trying to do the best we can within the difficult situation do not forget we are also affected like every other person so we are doing the best we can.
Me: Thank you very much for the interview for record purpose can you introduce yourself to us.
Mr. Ken: (smiles) Kenneth Gbandi is my name I’m the chairperson of Nigeria in diaspora organization for the continent of Europe, before now 4year term chairman Nigeria in Diaspora Germany or German branch , manage to run a media outlet that is one of the biggest Afro-European media organization and I do some project and consultation for the state of Hamburg as well as for the foreign affair for ministry of Germany in term of from Nigeria to Germany.
Me: Thank you very much for your time .Mr. Ken: You welcome.
Meanwhile in France, I interviewed a student Named Dickson who is on a full scholarship at IMT Mines Albi given by PTDF (Petroleum Technology Development Fund) who was on lockdown from 16th of march till it was relax on 11th of May and he said that school was closed down as precautionary measure and school resident house rent was slashed to accommodate people to meet up payment, he also said government gave free mask to everybody and he wasn’t treated or overlooked as a non-citizen with palliative being distributed to everybody by different bodies such as CROUS which serve as agent gave 200euros to student, etc. According to him he said the Nigerian government also looked after his warfare by given him his monthly allowance and constantly send mail to him to make sure he is not affected or infected with the virus. I went ahead to ask him how he coped during the isolation being that he is a student and he said throughout the isolation he got busy as his school began online teaching from morning through the noon and he really wasn’t affected by loneliness coupled with the fact that he learnt to do projects on his own with little or no supervision; he however said socially his school sent out a memo that no two people should be seen in a room so his used his free time mainly for Netflix, assignments and also used his licensed one hour to exercise his tired legs. Mind you, if you are caught using more that the given one hour you pay a fine of 300 euros but presently the lock down has been actively relaxed to a certain extent and it is subject to further relaxation by 15th of June with school postulated to resume by September.
According to a mother of 2 also in France name Angela she said that school for her kid was shut down on the 13th of March which became more stringent on 16th of march as restaurant, cinemas, and all establish was subject to lockdown only essential worker was allowed to work.
She also said palliatives was given if you are a worker as long as you stay legally there and there was no cut down in salary i.e. 100% salary was paid; organizations like Croix rogue which is red cross in French comes to you if you can’t go to them to help out health wise or to give palliatives. She also said you had to have an attestation before going out and welcome the lockdown as it not only created avenue for people to remain safe but also created bonding time for family as she had more time to watch her child grow and improve mentally and physically but with a little complain about stress of watching the children all the time to keep them safe from domestic harm.
Explaining about the relaxation of the lockdown, she said a 100km movement was put in place, obligation for everybody to wear mask including children but not without proper guidance to prevent suffocation, a minimum of 1 meter distance In bus station which didn’t lead to price hike unlike Nigeria where the price of transport has skyrocketed despite the reduction in fuel price, and proper sanitation before next passenger board the bus; Due to the relaxation some citizens has insisted on travelling outside the country for vacation and according to her the top 3 place that French people insist on going to is Greece, Spain and Italy. But for her and her family they are choosing to stay put in France for the long run.
We only wish that the world is totally healed from this pandemic and we all go back to living the best way we know how to. Stay safe as we continue to slowly but surely beat this enemy known as covid19!
Writer: GBANDI EMEKA EMMANUEL
Chief International Editor African Heritage Magazine
Contact: +2348066031054, email: email@example.com
Facebook: Emekagbandi Emmanuel