Africa

How The Pandemic Put Nigeria’s USD 1.5 Bn Bubbly Nightlife Scene In A Coma


July 10, 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic began to spread in Nigeria in March, three Nigerian cities — Lagos, Abuja, and Ogun — were officially forced into a 3-week total lockdown. That was when lockdowns were still popular around the world.

Apart from those three cities, several other state governments imposed lockdowns and curfews of their own as a precaution. And many businesses suffered, and perhaps none more so than the nightlife business which probably doesn’t get as much airtime as others.

Researchers place the economic value of nightlife business in the country, captured in its formal sector, at about NGN 600 Bn (approximately USD 1.5 Bn). Yet, even as the country has since sort of opened up — after extending the lockdown by a further two weeks and some additional days — nightclubs and bars are still shuttered by executive order, as are gyms, cinemas, and parks.

The result? Cities that were thought to never sleep have been lulled into a deep slumber and the nightlife value chain has been eviscerated. The continued closure of nightlife businesses in the country has taken its toll on fun lovers and crippled businesses employing thousands.

Major nighttime fun spots in the country like Cubana, Quilox., LiveSpot X, and many others, have been under lock and key since March in the country’s commercial centre and biggest nightlife scene, Lagos. And nightlife business owners are counting their losses.

At the moment, a nighttime drive through major night business bustling areas like Allen Avenue, Victoria Island, Lekki, and some parts of Ikeja, reveals a dour picture of deserted clubs, bars, lounges and cinemas.

With social distancing and stay-at-home directives blaring continuously, there are no fun seekers to keep the funs spots bustling. Cities have become a shadow of themselves, it’s unlike anything ever since the creation of Lagos in 1967, for instance. Never has the outbreak of a pestilence forced Nigeria’s commercial hub to abandon nightlife and have friends share drinks on video calls.

As things stand, the entire nightlife industry is in a precarious position and there are fears that the situation could lead to massive job losses in the value chain in the long run. 

Somi Uranta, who has managed a bubbly nightlife hangout in Lagos for more than 20 years, basically told TVC News that it has been a bloodbath. In fact, his spot has become a temporary football pitch for some of his workers and neighbours since things took an awkward turn. According to him, no fewer than 150 vehicles used to pull up at his bar, but now things are at a standstill.

“We have about 85 people working here, from the car wash people to the supervisors, to the cashiers, to the laundry people, to the restaurants, to the boutique, to the barbing area, to the bar,” he said.

“Let me not give you a particular figure but I want you to use your imagination to calculate and see what we have lost.”

Uranta wouldn’t put a number on the degree to which his business has been set back and he says he’s not exactly losing sleep over the losses. But he does worry about how to move on from here, and how people are coping with stress now that they have limited options to unwind.

Last December, global music star, Cardi B (shown in feature image), performed in Lagos, Nigeria, and she pretty much fell in love with the city’s nightlife. It was a further endorsement for the electric nighttime scene that the city is known for.

Before COVID-19 struck, Nigeria in general and Lagos in particular (which is the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in the country) boasted a vibrant nightlife scene that was the toast of nightcrawlers and fun lovers, as well as nighttime business owners.

In June, the Lagos State Safety Commission commenced physical verification of all social clubs in the state ahead of the planned reopening. But that’s about how far the process has gone towards reopening fun spots as stakeholders plugged into the nightlife value chain continue to hope they finally catch a break soon.

Featured Image Courtesy: LoudViews

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