Hidden threats of coronavirus outbreak …as Nigerians resort to herbal concoctions, alcohol to prevent infection

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Myriads of unscientific ways of preventing the spread of the dreaded Coronavirus have surfaced and unless the government embarks of aggressive enlightenment campaign to address this, the nation may have more than the deadly pandemic to deal with, KUNLE AKINRINADE and INNOCENT DURU report.

  • Hardship looms as importers can’t bring in goods
  • Daily income earners may suffer depression – Economic Expert
  • Certain items must be air freighted to mitigate challenges – MAN President
  • Concerns over fake hand sanitizers in circulation

There is palpable fear among Nigerians over the rate at which the Coronavirus menace is spreading.  After the outcry that greeted the panicky resort of citizens to using chloroquine as a preventive measure against the virus, some Nigerians have begun to consume herbal concoctions as their own preventive measures against the pandemic.

Interactions with some disturbed citizens revealed that many people have been consuming neem leaves known in local parlance as dogonyaro as a preventive measure. Dogonyaro leaves, according to some respondents, are potent against many forms of diseases and also boost the immune system.

A respondent who gave his name simply as Ojo said: “Dongoyaro leave is what I have been taking since I became convinced that Coronavirus is truly here in Nigeria. It is very powerful and helps to fight against sicknesses including malaria.

“When you boil the leaves and you take it hot, you will sweat out every impurity in your system. It can cure many things. Just try it.”

Another, who identified herself as Seki, said the solution to Coronavirus lies in herbal medicine with particular reference to neem leaves.

She said: “Don’t you know dogonyaro leaves? It is a very powerful antidote to all manner of afflictions. Our forebears know and appreciate its potency and that is why they use it a lot.

“I have been taking it from time to time since this wahala (trouble) started. It flushes all the rubbish in the body. The solution to the pandemic is in herbs and top on the list is the consumption of dogonyaro leaves.”

Speaking in the same vein, Gbola, a trader, wondered why the developed countries have not been able to find a solution to the menace with all the orthodox medicine at their disposal.

“Long before I was born, our people depended solely on herbs like dogonyaro. If you go to herbal doctors’ place, the leaves are part of what they will give you. Take it or leave it, the solution is not in capsules but herbs.”

Alcohol to the rescue

Besides using dogonyaro, checks also showed that many people have resorted to consuming alcoholic drinks as a preventive measure. Some, according to findings, use a particular sachet alcoholic drink to sanitise their hands.

“I was told that alcoholic drinks help prevent Coronavirus. Didn’t you also hear it? If it can prevent it, why would I not take as much of it as my body can take?  It is a fact I am telling you,” a hawker who would not disclose his name said.

Another respondent who boarded a public transport with our reporter said she has been using a particular brand of sachet alcoholic drink as sanitizer.

She said: “I was told that anything that contains alcohol works against it. I use a particular alcoholic sachet drink because it is affordable.

“Many people around me are also using it both for drinking and washing of hands. Even while I am using it, I still cover myself with the blood of Jesus because I know it is more potent.”

Emma, a dealer in alcoholic drinks, confirmed that demand for alcoholic drinks have been on the increase since the outbreak of coronavirus.

“Yes, there has been a rise in the demand for the drinks. But I don’t know if it is because of coronavirus or for the purpose of catching fun,” he said.

Scarcity looms as importers are stranded 

There may be scarcity of imported products if the Coronavirus pandemic escalates. Market leaders who spoke with The Nation said most of the items on sale now were imported before the crisis.

The President of the Association of Progressive Traders at Trade Fair Market, Chief Eric Ifeanyichukwu Ilechukwu, said:  “COVID-19 has affected business too much. Anything that affects life automatically affects everything. It has seriously affected importation of goods. Every importer is feeling it because it started from the origin that is China, where our goods are coming from.

“We pray that this problem will not con tinue. This is why we like the palliative measure that is being taken now. If the problem persists, everybody will pay dearly for it.

The President General of Alaba International Traders Association Amalgamated, Ichie Fabian, while supporting the closure of markets, said:  “COVID-19 is something that has come as a huge challenge. I support the shutting down of markets by the government because it is better to save life.

“Everybody is out to make money and enjoy and not to make money and die.  The pandemic has affected us because the price of dollar has changed. It affects our members because the major containers are no more coming the way they are supposed to and the prices have changed.

“The masses will bear the brunt because what you cannot cure you must endure.

“People have fears coming to the market to buy goods because of this challenge. All we are doing is taking preventive measures on what to do to be safe. But if the experts believe that all these measures will not help us and that the best option is for everybody to stay at home for two weeks, it is not a bad thing.

“Is it when people when people start dying that you will now do that? Is it not better for us to punish ourselves instead of this pandemic punishing us? How can you travel in this kind of situation?

“Before now, if somebody was coming from China, America, UK and so on, you would be happy to go and embrace the person. As you are interviewing me now, if I find out that you have just arrived from China, I will run away. How can you travel when you are even afraid of those that are coming in?”

The President of Agric Building Materials Association, Abule Ado, Lagos, Nze Onyeikedi Simeon, said Covid-19 is a very dangerous disease that everybody has to be very careful of, adding: “We the market leaders always educate our members on how to prevent the pandemic.  We try to put a lot of strict measures in place to help them. We have wash hand basins and sanitizers everywhere in the market.

“The challenge has been affecting business as one can no longer import from China where the problem originated.  Most of the containers at Wharf are not easy to clear. I don’t know if it is as a result of COVID-19.

“It is affecting business because people are afraid of making contact with one another. Our members’ income is grossly affected because goods are no longer coming mainly from China.

“In our market, we have a task force ensuring crowd control in compliance with government directives.  Before, some members used to gather to drink at the back of the market, but we have stopped that because of this challenge.

“The challenge we have now is with the public transport. The government should do something about this.”

A visit to the popular Mile 12 International Market in Kosofe Local Government Area, Lagos State showed that the authorities had introduced drastic measures to prevent the spread of the disease. Eleven of the 15 gates were shut while traders entering through the remaining gates had their temperature checked and hands sanitised while queuing to enter the market.

The Chairman of the market, Alhaji  Shehu Usman, said: We take the health of our customers and the entire state seriously. To make sure we don’t have issues here, I called the sectional heads and we decided to go beyond customers washing their hands. We went ahead to procure 20 temperature machines and sanitisers. Everybody coming into the market is checked and also given sanitiser. “Coronavirus is a global issue. Every sensible person or organisation will abide with the government’s directive on this issue.  If the government decides to close down the market, we will comply. Losing money is far better than losing lives. If people die, who will come to the market to do business?”

“Before the closure of markets by the Lagos State Government, President of Mandilas International Trade Centre, Trade Fair Complex, Anthony Okeke, said the pandemic had “affected business in the sense that goods are no more coming in, people are confined, the exchange rate has gone up and people are not coming to patronise us so much. It is all about the pandemic and everybody is confused.”

Asked if any of his members was stuck abroad, Okeke said: “We have information that some of our members travelled to China. We have issued a directive that those coming from outside into the market should be sent on isolation for two weeks. For some businesses, the pandemic has affected prices of goods. But for those of us who deal in fashion items, it hasn’t.

“We have water and sanitizers all over the market and, like I said earlier, customers are not coming as usual because of the pandemic. This morning, my wife asked me not to come out, but as a market leader, I had to come out to oversee things.

“Disposable income has dropped. When you are not doing business, your income will go down because you are only spending what you have and business is not moving as usual. I believe you have to give medication before you pray.

“We have instructed all shops to have sanitizers, and when you are sick, you stay at home to take care of yourself before you start praying. Prayer sessions will now be done it in your shop; no more gathering in an area.”

The Secretary General of Ndigbo Amaka, a conglomeration of 58 major markets and plazas in Lagos State, Comrade Chinedu Ukaatu, also noted that the challenge was affecting businesses because “we have a partial lockdown and many people are not coming out. If you were selling 10 items before, now you sell only two. It is definitely affecting businesses.

“We don’t want it to affect businesses totally. We don t want a total lock down.  We are trying to prevent the pandemic to the best of our ability. We did it during the time of Ebola.

“Market is an essential place, and if it eventually affects it and everywhere is shut down, I don’t know how Nigeria will survive it.

“No more gathering in the market to pray. People can stay in their respective shops and have somebody lead the prayers using microphone. Product and public advertisements in the markets have been disengaged.

“Part of the weapons we are using to fight the virus is prayer but we don’t gather anymore to pray.  We use megaphones and loud speakers are stationed everywhere in the market.”

Informal sector operators may suffer more depression

Dr Austin Nweze of the Lagos Business School has charged the government to think outside the box and allay the suffering that the sit-at-home order may cause for people in the informal sector. He said:  “In developed countries, the government has data and can actually do something for the people. What the government has done here is to provide N1 trillion or so to cushion the effects on the banks and they have forced banks to be giving out about 70 per cent of their liabilities as loans to businesses and all that.

“I am not sure they have any plans for individuals. They don’t have plans for the citizens unlike other countries. It is only some states that are taking preventive measures.”

The government, he said, “should make sure that whatever protective measure they are going to do to prevent it from spreading should make it clear how long people are going to stay doing nothing.  It is what the American government comes up with that Nigeria adopts, but we have different situations.

“The only thing they have not adopted is when American government is putting money in the hands of their citizens. When foods are being delivered to the citizens over there, we are not.  This situation is leading us to recession as a nation and that may even lead to depression. That is not good for our economy?

“We are in a critical situation. My prayer is that God would give the managers of the economy the clear mind to know what to do at this critical time, because they don’t know what to do. That is why whatever the US does, they copy.

“They should make sure that lives are protected first, which they are trying to do. But then, it shouldn’t last for too long. I hope that by the middle of April, everything would have normalised globally and business activities can resume because most Nigerians depend on daily income.”

He further said: “Government can do something for civil servants by way of making sure that their salaries are paid, salary advance is given like some companies are doing. But for other citizens, they don’t have plans for them.

The implication for those in informal sector is that they will face more depression than the rest of the people. People who have money may not see things to buy. People who don’t have money and selling goods may not have what to sell.

“Farmers harvesting their produce may not have ways of moving them out of the farms to be able to sell and make money because of the restrictions. What the government should be able to do is to open warehouses of foodstuffs if they have such to distribute to the people; if not for free, at subsidized prices.

“When people stay at home for one or two weeks, the food they have may run out and they may not have money to replenish. There would be crisis situation and they would be forced to open up the space.”

He noted that the idea of states shutting out people will affect trade and food supply.

“No state has food sufficiency. They all depend on each other for supplies. It is a serious situation and we have never seen it this way. It is not just here but globally. The only difference is that we don’t have plans for our citizens like others,” he said.

Speaking on what the association is doing to mitigate scarcity, the President of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, Engineer Mansur Ahmed, said some ideas were being put together and obviously it would have some effect.

He said: “What we are concerned about now is to be proactive to minimise the effect. If the sector is affected, it will have serious impact on the economy. We are working with relevant agencies and government to try and be proactive.

“First of all, to ensure that the sector can maintain operations, especially those industries that are in the food sector as well as those in the pharmaceutical sector and other commodities that are absolutely essential for containing the virus, we are working with the government and we have been meeting at various levels.

“We try to sensitise our members, especially the vulnerable, to ensure that they take precautionary measures to keep themselves safe. We have asked our members to do whatever they can to provide whatever they can in terms of facilities in their work places to ensure that workers can keep to the guidelines issued by the NCDC.

“We are also asking government to support the sector to ensure that they can maintain operations. In those areas that are essential, companies should get as much power supply and gas in some areas.”

He added: “We are also hoping that measures that will ease the supply chain and make sure that food and medicines get to the people are measures we will make sure the government supports.

“We are telling our members to make sure that they maintain supplies as much as possible and prices do not rise unnecessarily.

“This is an ongoing effort and we will continue to mobilise our members to assist as much as possible.”

Furore over high cost of hand sanitisers, fake anti-COVID-19 products

Hand sanitisers have become the hottest commodity and are largely out of reach of the common man since coronavirus otherwise known as COVID- 19 found its way into the country through an unnamed Italian, who came into Nigeria aboard a Turkish flight.

The development has led to hike in prices of the item in most downtown shops, pharmacies and super stores across the Lagos metropolis.

Checks by The Nation in several outlets revealed the galloping prices of sanitisers, giving residents concern about its affordability.

A small bottle of 250mg which used to sell for N300 now cost between N600 to N800, while the one of 500mg hitherto sold for N500 now cost between N1700 and N2,500.

At a popular store in Abule Egba area, the lowest price of the substance was N800 for 250mg while the one of 500mg ranges between N1,800 and N2,500 depending on the brand or manufacturer.

Prices of the product were not too different at a supermarket in Ogba area of Ikeja. At the store, a small bottle of sanitiser cost N700, while the medium size of 500mg was sold for N2,000. A source at the popular Ile Epo Market near Abule Egba, Isiwat Adeyemi, said that most distributors of the product deliberately hoard it to cause artificial scarcity in order to increase the prices of the item.

A cross section of residents blamed the hike in the prices of the product on unscrupulous traders and pharmacy operators, who in a bid to make more profit jerked up the prices as high as 300 per cent.

“Sellers of sanitisers have been lying that the distributors of the product are the ones who hike the price, but that is not true at all. The sellers are the ones who jerk up the prices of the various brands of the product following increase in demand and this has made the product unaffordable for the average Nigerian,” said Mojeed Akanbi, an auto technician in Abule Egba area of Lagos.

Wale Olabimtan, a resident of Bariga, said the prices of sanitisers are out of the reach of the the common man, adding that the state government should look into the matter.

He said: “Before the outbreak of COVID-19, a small bottle of sanitiser in my neighbourhood was N300. But the price has since gone up to N700, no thanks to shylock sellers.

“This has made the substance unaffordable for people like us who have low purchasing power. The state government should address the issue because diseases don’t know rich or poor citizens.”

Fake hand sanitisers on the loose

The rising cost of the product has led to production of cheap but fake sanitisers in some parts of the state. Some of the areas where such substandard sanitisers are produced include a backstreet market in Adeniji Adele area of Lagos Island and Ojota market, where traders have been caught making hand sanitisers, using crude methods in unhygienic environment.

Four days ago, a woman on Twitter, a social media platform, exposed how some traders were producing fake hand sanitisers at the popular Ojota Market.

In a post she attached to the footage of the production of sanitisers at the market, she flayed the desperation of unscrupulous  traders to endanger human health in a bid to profit from the outbreak of the disease.

Posting under the name@Thecreativeherbalist, she wrote:” I finally found out the magic behind the sudden influx of hand sanitiser manufacturers today…(at) Ojota Market. After a few days of staying indoors, I had to step out because I needed to get materials to make dish/clothes liquid soap from the market.

“With N3000, you can make a 25-litre keg of soap, (I) learnt this two years ago. With the imminent ‘full stay at home order’ I decided to make some because na 4 clothes my housemate dey wear per day.

“On my way to the store after I got into the market, I noticed a lot of mixing was going on in almost every shop that sold ‘chemicals’, which was very unusual. And one thing they had in common was the colour which was white/translucent.

“Upon getting to the store, while waiting to collect my purchase, it finally dawned on me that they were all making hnd sanitizers.

“To confirm my fear, a lady seated in the store, who also happened to be another customer, was presented with a 5-litre keg full of liquid. The next thing she did was to bring out a sticker and slapped it on the container, ready to be sent to the buyer, I guess.

“I saw people buying in litres for personal use while some bought in 50 litre kegs, to resell, I guess. The market rate was N1000 for a litre.

“So all they have to do is buy in bulk, get containers from the same market, get labels printed and resell…making money during a pandemic is different from making money from a pandemic. May God save us all.”

(THE NATION)

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