Some days ago, a friend asked me to describe the year 2020 in a nutshell and all I could say was ‘eventful.’ Honestly, name another eventful year and I would definitely respond ‘well, that was about a decade ago or so.’
I am, nonetheless, super excited that we are all able to read this week’s edition of BusinessDay’s Weekender, even as I wish you a happy New Year and say a big welcome to the year 2021.
Finally, the year which many have described as horrible, sad, burdensome, and filled with the worst uncertainties is over and all we have left is a lengthy hope that we do not get greeted by unwelcomed guests; even as we journey in the year 2021.
The year 2020 will forever be a year we all would never forget in a long time as a result of all the back-to-back events that took place. I have, however, highlighted four events that I consider very important because in decades to come, we will continue to make reference to these stories.
The Pandemic and the Lockdown
No one would ever have imagined that a time will come when almost every Nigerian would be sent into their homes for days without taking to their usual ‘hustler mode.’
On the 11th of March 2020, COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and from then, the words ‘COVID-19’ and ‘Coronavirus’ became a household name on the lips of every Nigerian as we all lived in the reality that a deadly disease was on a rampage around the world, and Nigeria was not excluded.
The first coronavirus case in Nigeria was identified on the 27th of February 2020 and although some Nigerians greeted the issue of the pandemic with levity, some others took it serious and embarked on all safety measures that were meted to curb the virus.
The Nigerian government was not taking chances as well and between the 18th and 23rd of March, the government had banned some international flights, closed schools and went on to ban large gatherings around Lagos and Ogun state, limiting gatherings to just fifty people. On the 30th of March 2020, the government declared a two weeks compulsory lockdown of Lagos, Abuja, and Ogun. People were required to stay indoors, while most businesses were closed except for essential service providers.
It was indeed a new era for Nigeria’s largest cities as even markets were only open at specific hours and days of the week.
Fast-forward to the 27th of April, the President of Nigeria announced a nationwide curfew between the hours of 6am and 8pm expected to take effect from May 4th to May 17th. Many Nigerians were not ready for this and it resulted in series of emergency buying, intense traffic, and of course, hike of prices due to the rush to get all necessary items before the curfew commenced.
By the time the two weeks elapsed, the presidential council convened and given the rising number of positive coornavirus cases the lockdown was further extended by another two weeks, spanning through May 18th to the first of June 2020.
The year continued to be a year of lockdowns as another phase of lockdown commenced on the 2nd of June, running through the four weeks of the month of June. The nationwide curfew was however reviewed to run from 10pm to 4am daily, without affecting all frontline workers like journalists and health workers.
The government continued the gradual easing of the lockdown and it lasted from June 30th through July 27th followed by the reopening of airports, schools, religious centres, and lifting of interstate travel bans.
Slowly and gradually, everything started to return to normal with social centres like cinemas, clubs, restaurants, and gyms reopened. People have however since been expected to wear their face masks in public places and live in the continuous reminder that the virus is real and so all necessary precautions should be taken.
The EndSARS protests
For me, the movement against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and police brutality was the best story of 2020. In just one week of the protests, the Nigerian youths had garnered the attention of so many important persons on both the local and international front.
It all began when a young man was shot dead by SARS officials in Delta state on the 3rd of October 2020 and the moment videos of the incident surfaced on social media, the battle to put an end to SARS was resurrected.
Most would have thought it was business as usual, but the Nigerian youths literally succeeded in getting the world’s attention and even our own government now knows that the youths have had enough of the silence code, the gimmicks, empty promises, and a failed system that has only succeeded in making us more miserable.
The Inspector General of Police’s (IGP) public announcement on the ban of SARS and other tactical unit of the force was taken with a pinch of salt and rejected as another foul play from the books of the government and so the protests to put a total end to SARS and ultimately, police brutality commenced on the 8th of October 2020.
The protests lasted across Nigeria and among Nigerians in Diaspora through the 8th of October until the 20th of October when the worst evil the world had seen happened.
The beauty of the EndSARS protests was that it brought together Nigerians irrespective of their tribe, religion or social status and they all had one message for the Nigerian government, “put an end to police brutality.”
For example, popular clergy man, pastor Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God lent his voice to the movement and the Imam of peace also blasted the presidency for neglecting the youths and Nigerians at large. Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey also showed his support to the movement and even changed the retweet icon to a Nigerian flag color.
Sadly however, a good movement was turned into a sorrowful event on Tuesday, the 20th of October 2020. ‘Black Tuesday’ as we have chosen to call it represents the day that soldiers released bullets on our fellow patriots and unarmed and peaceful protesters stationed at the Lekki tollgate.
Nigeria bled on that Tuesday; Nigerians have mourned and are still mourning at the drastic negative turn of events of the peaceful movement against police brutality which commenced on the 8th of October 2020.
It started to seem like we were winning, in fact, we thought we had won. We had already started getting powerful voices from international bodies speak in our favour while our own government already claimed they were working things out for us.
Who ordered the shooting of life bullets at the peaceful protesters in Lekki tollgate on Tuesday? This is one big question that has still not been answered by anyone in government, even our own President.
It was followed by series of denials from the Lagos state government, the military personnel and other top government officials who claimed that it was fake news. Thanks to the live Instagram video of Nigerian celebrity, DJ Switch, the world saw the depth of cruelty and wickedness released on innocent Nigerians protesting peacefully at the Lekki toll gate.
Many Nigerians were not having it and the air of nonchalance from all angles of the government made it worse for them.
Some persons therefore went on to attack and burn buildings, vehicles, TV stations and even raided the palace of the Oba of Lagos. While the protesters defied the curfew imposed by the Lagos state Governor, hoodlums burnt about 30 government Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) buses alongside Television Continental Station (TVC) in the Ikosi-Ketu area of Lagos state.
There was also an attack on Oriental hotel which is owned by a former governor of Lagos state, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is a national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The headquarters of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) in Marina, Lagos; The Nation Newspaper and Sanwo-Olu’s family house were also reportedly set on fire while the Constituency Office of the Speaker and Honorable Desmond Olusola Elliot were attacked by hoodlums disguised in the #EndSARS protests, as shown by residents who posted videos online.
In conclusion: The protests against police brutality in Nigeria showed us that the people are more powerful than they think when they channel their energy to the right things. My heart rests with the families of all fallen soldiers in this battle and even the ones whose deaths served as an intense reason to fight in the place.
We can only hope that their deaths would not be in vain and the wind of change which is blowing from Nigerian youths will see an end to police brutality in Nigeria.
So far, the panel sitting to address the issues surrounding police brutality in Nigeria has begun, bit activist groups are calling for necessary compensations and steps to be taken as it is not a story telling platform only.
The Economic Recession
Another striking story in 2020 for Nigeria was the fall into another economic recession just barely five years after the last recession in 2016.
In case you are wondering, a nation falls into a recession when it records two consecutive negative Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate; used to measure economic growth.
By the third quarter of 2020, Nigeria was said to be in a recession following the second quarter negative growth rate of -6.1 percent and the third quarter negative growth rate of -3.62 percent.
Having just emerged from the last recession in 2016, growth in the country was still fragile and so when the pandemic and oil price fall hit, the nation was badly affected. The oil sector contracted 13.89 percent in the third quarter of 2020 while the non-oil sector contracted 2.51 percent.
The country is currently plagued with a high rising inflation rate of 14.89 percent and an unemployment rate of 27.1 percent; putting so many Nigerians at a misery level of 47.1 percent.
The recession further spiked the prices of all staple food items and increased the poverty and hunger of Africa’s biggest giant set to house at least 4 poor persons out of a number of five according to the United Nations.
A Nigerian-born Doctor was involved in the creation of the COVID-19 vaccine
It became so bad in 2020 that no one or government could plan anything without putting COVID-19 into consideration. It was therefore a breath of fresh air for the whole world when Pfizer and BioTech announced the availability of a vaccine which was 95 percent effective.
It was more good news for Nigerians when Nigerian-born Doctor Onyema Ogbuagu was unveiled as one of the master minds behind the vaccine creation.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, work to create a vaccine for the virus had already commenced but was intensified as a result of the wide spread of the virus within such a short time. Creating a vaccine in one year is indeed a serious feat. Some of the fastest vaccines ever developed took at least four years. However, Ogbuagu and his team developed a vaccine for coronavirus under a year.
The vaccine has been tested on 43,500 people in six countries and no safety concerns have been raised. Pfizer was quoted as saying it would be able to supply 50 million doses by the end of 2020, and around 1.3 billion by the end of 2021.
Many countries have implemented phased distribution plans that prioritize those at highest risk of complications such as the elderly and those at high risk of exposure and transmission such as healthcare workers. Nigeria is also not left out as the country is said to be expecting delivery of about 10-20 million coronavirus vaccines in the first month of the year 2021.
Oluwafadekemi Areo is an Economics and Markets Analyst at BusinessDay Media Nigeria. Asides speaking to and writing about economic and financial issues, she has a knack for exploring and explaining matters surrounding the human mind and psychology. She strongly believes that in a world where everyone puts themselves in other people’s shoes, win-win solutions will always be created to every problem.