Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Residents of Kuje Area Council on Tuesday carried on with their daily activities as if at normal times, defying the 14-day lockdown order by the federal government to control the spread of Coronavirus which entered into the second day.
While the two big four-day periodic markets were in full operational with at least 5000 persons, comprising the buyers and sellers from far and near, at both markets, motorists, motorcycle operators and residents engage in competition with each other for the ownership of the right of ways.
Beside the uninterrupted activities at the two markets, popularly known as forest and Kuje main markets, selling foodstuffs, fruits, second hand clothing (Okirika), electronics and even other non-essential items, roadside shops, supermarkets, dealing in all kinds of merchandise were equally opened without any monitoring team disrupting their trading activities.
Inside the markets, without showing any concern, both the buyers and sellers that appeared ignorant of the precautionary measures to put in place, attributed their presence at the markets to what they described as critical situation of things at home.
A middle-aged mother of four, told our correspondent in confidence that she could no longer continue to sit idle at home, quipping: “I cannot watch my family die of hunger. Some of the items I have in stock are wasting and I have to salvage some to sell to people so that I will not bear the loss alone.”
“Don’t also forget that some traders buy items like onions and other perishable goods in large stock. Big markets like these two here will provide them the opportunity to dispose them before they perish and incur huge loss. I cannot however say of the same thing about those people buying Okarika but I won’t blame both the buyers and sellers. They have their reasons,” she noted.
A buyer however argued that since the market is the only place the residents can buy foodstuff and other items cheap; they cannot afford to wait for another four days, emphasising: “We will all die of one thing now. Will it be better to stay at home and die of hunger? We don’t have the money to buy things with the prices hiking every day?”
Curiously, at most Point of Sale (POS) kiosks around Kuje, social distancing was not maintained, perhaps due to the large number of persons waiting patiently to patronise to operators that have even jerked up the commissions, forcing the customers to pay as high as N500 for a cash transaction of N30,000.
Although some residents expressed reservation over the failure to comply with the lockdown order, the situation however looks helpless and hopeless as the law enforcement agents with the responsibility to implement the directive were conspicuously lukewarm or totally absent.
In fact, the only police station at Kuje was actually bubbling with human activities but there was no patrol team deliberately deployed to monitor compliance for the lockdown and control the activities at the markets or regular human and vehicular movements in and out of the council.
Fielding question from our correspondent, a member of the patrol team of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps of the Area Council, attributed the feeble implementation of the order to the inability of the police to show some level of commitments.
“It is like we are handicapped without the police and or the military. The ideal thing is that police, as the lead agency, should take the lead and the Civil Defence will follow. This morning, we were busy implementing the order at the Tipper Garage axis of the entry into Kuje but we were surprise to notice that activities at both the forest and Kuje main markets are fully in full swing.
“I was shocked to see the two markets operational and what it means is that Kuje residents need more enlightenment campaigns to understand the gravity of the situation we are in now. The situation is more than what the Civil Defence can do alone. If we must implement the order, it requires the active involvement of a combine team of military, police and Civil Defence.
“It calls for immediate action especially as a resident called on a radio station programme on Tuesday to complain of displaying certain symptoms related to the disease. If there is outbreak of Coronavirus in Kuje, it will consume many residents because many of them are not conscious of the disease,” the Civil Defence personnel who spoke in confidence lamented.