By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
No time should provoke communal spirit at its peak than when the world is faced with stringent emergencies. And no time provides the opportunity better than this time when the world is faced
with great need- the world social and economic activities are currently grounded by the outbreak of the pandemic, Coronavirus.
Unfortunately, the contrary is the case. People hoard goods and services to create artificial scarcity. The consequence of this is that the prices of these goods and services climb to the mountain top, thereby shooting it out of the reach of the common man.
Again, the disgruntled elements who created this unfavourable atmosphere fail to understand that they have provoked a vicious cycle that equally consume them.
For instance, a commercial tricycle operator who hikes his fare to over 200 percent does not realise that he has provoked boomerang. The food vendor who bears the brunt of this irresponsible attitude of the tricycle operator would pass the pain to his numerous customers, including the tricycle operator,by increasing the prices of her food,which the tricycle operator would patronise. This goes to other goods and services patronised by the tricycle operator and other persons who are in the habit of hiking the prices of their goods and services.This scenario amounts to” penny wise, pound foolish”.
Perhaps, this trend prompted the South East State of Ebonyi State to recently sign into law the “Coronavirus and other Dangerous Infectious Diseases And Related Matters bill”.
The law stipulates that” artificial inflation of prices of foods, drugs and other essential goods and services constitutes an offence”.It further stipulates that:“To hoard foods, drugs and other essential goods and services within the state or refusal to provide foods, drugs and other essential goods and services within the state for people to buy shall constitute an offence”.
According to the law,“Where a person breaches any of the above, the culprit(s) shall be prosecuted in accordance with the Law and there shall be seizure and forfeiture of the foods, drugs and other essential goods to the State, and in addition, such forfeited foods, drugs and other essential goods shall be utilized for the purposes of alleviating the supply needs in the state.”
The law also prohibits the transmission, or dissemination through a computer system or network or otherwise false information regarding COVID-19 within the State and other Dangerous Infectious Diseases and or any circumstances related to.
“Promotion of unverified, untested, or unapproved cures, vaccines or other similar medicinal items that purport to cure, alleviate or reduce instances of persons infected, or believed to be infected, with COVID-19 or any other Dangerous Infectious Diseases within the State is prohibited”, the law stipulates.
Like John Pepper Clark, the poet aptly captured in his poem,“The Casualties”, we all are casualties in the COVID-19 saga, because we have either contributed positively or negatively in this process.
Even law enforcement agents who are assigned with one or two assignments in this process have converted it to avenue of exploiting people. Also, the various task forces constituted by government to contain the biting effects of this virus,have not been faithful in discharging their functions. The morals here is that emergency periods are not the best periods to accumulate wealth as those wealths accumulated within these periods would definitely develop the proverbial wings and fly away.
On the other hand, the educative and informative functions of the media, especially the social media, have been discharged in the reverse,as the media have almost discarded all known ethics, and instead of informing and educating the people, have chosen, to misinform them.
What is more worrisome is how the prices of thesee goods and services would be stabilised at the post COVID-19 era.
It is glaring in the Nigerian context that any price of goods and services that is reviewed upward does not go down. So, it behoves on the governments and their relevent autheities to set in motion mechanisms that would ensure that these prices that are hitting the roof tops would go down to the normal this era subsides, if not the pains occasioned by this pandemic would linger.
It is our responsibility to watch eat others back at this time of great need, and we must endeavour to discharge this onerous responsibility religiously.