Interview with Melanie Daigle, Co-Founder of Business Club Africa, on the Impacts of COVID-19 in Nigeria

In a few words, what is the current status of the Coronavirus? (lockdown, curfew, new regulations in place, etc)

  • There has been an increasing number of persons testing positive for the virus and a small but steadily increasing number of deaths. The Federal Government imposed a lockdown on Lagos State, Ogun State and the Federal Capital Territory (“FCT”), Abuja and enacted several new quarantine regulations.
  • This was for an initial period of 14 days from March 31 to April 14 and has now been extended for a further 14 day period, to expire at the end of April, 2020. The Government has also intensified efforts at case identification, testing and isolation.
  • The main challenge has been inadequate health care infrastructure and facilities for testing, isolation and treatment, as well as protection for frontline health care personnel. Government, assisted by the private sector is working hard to cover the gaps. Many temporary facilities and equipment have been provided. It remains to be seen whether the momentum will continue as a base from which better healthcare system and facilities will spring up.

What is the impact on your industry?

  • As you know, I am a Mediator, Attorney and ADR practitioner.
  • Law courts and ADR centres and institutions are affected by the Lockdown. This can only worsen the backlog of cases. The silver lining is that the industry is fast embracing on-line solutions especially in the case of Mediation. Professional Development also stands to gain a lot as there is a profusion of webinars and online Zoom (and other providers) telephone and video conferencing courses, webinars, debates, and dialogues for professional education and development.
  • For example, we are most likely to see an upsurge on Online Dispute Resolution, as well as court processes.
  • Many lawyers are rethinking the place of physical offices and reviewing the options of shared and virtual offices. Tradition is being challenged in ways we did not have the time to address but for the virus and consequential lockdowns and WFH.

Do you have an example of something positive being done by your organization, your government or else to fight COVID-19?

  • Many relief funds have been set up by public spirited individuals, especially in the local communities. The Nigerian Bar Association is also making arrangements to offer some help to young attorneys to help cushion the effects of the lockdown on their incomes.
  • Many educational institutions have offered their webinars and other courses either free or at highly reduced fees.
  • The Mobile phone companies have introduced all sorts of relief packages ranging from free texts, free/reduced fee data packages and bonuses.
  • Particularly pleasing is the efforts of individuals in their neighbourhoods. A friend is providing food and water for his disadvantaged neighbours. Such initiatives abound by churches, mosques and other organizations. Surely, despite all, it is not right to define Nigeria by corruption but by the generosity of its citizens and care for one another.

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