Romanus Ugwu, Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The Federal Government lockdown directive seems to mean nothing to residents of the outskirts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as many of them have continued with their businesses, paying little or no attention to the social and physical distancing directive.
Reports from our correspondents who monitored the compliance in such areas as Mpape, Lugbe, Gwagwalada and Kuje communities confirm that several residents not only flooded the roads, the popular bus stops along Airport Road on Wednesday but trooped into many of the markets without the monitoring teams doing anything to stop them.
For the residents of Mpape community, there was no conscious effort to comply with the stay-at-home order let alone social distancing, apparently because of the high population density in the area as well as the proximity of the houses and shanties in the area.
Although compliance to the lockdown directive was partially effective at some parts of the community, especially those that share the neighbourhood with residents of Maitama District, and many others, residents, however, carried on their activities as in normal times.
In fact, before President Muhammadu Buhari extended the lockdown, businesses at that Abuja suburb were running smoothly as if nothing was happening, resulting in some people asking if Mpape residents are still part of Abuja.
Also, the residents of Kuje equally threw caution to the wind as thousands of them emptied into the two popular markets on Wednesday apparently to restock their foodstuff and flooded the roads too with their cars and motorcycles, regardless of the perilous time at hand, halting vehicular and human movement for hours.
Interestingly, the number of residents that gathered at the Kuje Primary School, as beneficiaries of the Federal Government Social Intervention Programme, running into several thousands, pushing and pulling each other to join the lengthy queues, stretching more than 200 metres each, dwarfed those inside the market.
The monitoring teams, comprising the security, paramilitary agencies and vigilantes, were either nowhere to be found or watched helplessly as the vehicular and human traffic surged and competed for space with each other, especially at the two markets: Forest and Kuje main markets.
There was no keeping the social and physical distancing rule at the few ATMs centres in Kuje area. Bank customers, numbering over 70 persons queued closely for several hours to transact.
Flouting of the lockdown was almost the same along the Musa Yar’Adua Road popularly called the Airport Road, as every bus stop sheltered at least a sizeable number of stranded passengers, numbering between 10 and 20 persons, waiting patiently for the few available vehicles.
Although the road was not as busy compared to normal times, however, a sizeable number of motorists and motorcyclists conveying persons to various destinations, were visibly present at the bus stops.
At most of the popular bus stops along the road like the Federal Housing junction, Car Wash, Police Signboard among others, endless human and vehicular activities continued under the full glare of the personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.
Despite the barricade mounted along the major express roads by the security agents at the Federal Housing Under Bridge to screen motorists heading towards the airport, some sharp motorists capitalised on the situation to make brisk business, charging the passengers heading for places like Gwagwalada, Soka, Airport, Kuje among others exorbitantly and crowding them six into their vehicles.
Speaking to Daily Sun on the helplessness of the Civil Defence in ensuring the compliance to the order, lady personnel of the agency, blamed their heads for deploying only women under the bridge without arms, lamenting that they are rather exposing them to risk.
“We have complained to our heads to rejig the deployment. What do they want the women they are deploying under the bridge without ammunition to do? We saw people moving up and down. We even saw touts at bus stops doing their things, but what could we do to them? We lacked the courage to confront them because the touts would just descend on us the women.
“They have reduced us to sit-down-and look and until they fortify the deployment with men or armed women; we can only helplessly watch those people defying the lockdown order. We don’t even have Personal Protective Kits (PPKs) to implement the order effectively. We need to protect ourselves too because we are not immune to contracting the virus,” the officer who spoke in confidence lamented.
At the Social Intervention centre in Kuje, the officials equally admitted that they even faced a helpless situation in controlling the crowd that came from several suburbs of the area council, let alone forcing them to comply with the social-distancing rule, admitting that they were rather scared by the crowd.
“About three men had earlier confronted me to ask why there was disparity in the fund we were giving to them. I explained to them the much I could, but when I noticed that they were getting agitated, I had to quickly withdraw from them. We did not expect this massive crowd and it will be worse if all of them did not get anything today,” she said.
Equally reacting to the situation in Mpape, where commercial activities had continued especially at the popular Ajegunle Area 1 junction with commercial motorcycles at the service of the people, street traders dismissed the directive from the Federal Government, insisting that they neither believed nor trusted government particularly about Coronavirus.
Speaking to our correspondent among the roadside traders who occupied half of the road, causing vehicular and human traffic, a passer-by, Ibrahim Okai, said that it will be a difficult task to enforce the lockdown because of the class of people and kind of lifestyle in Mpape.
“Besides, this disease is for the elite, yet they are forcing us to suffer it with them by the stay-indoors directive when there is no provision for us. Majority of the people here are the poor in the society except for few people that have the opportunity to work inside Abuja city. Other people here rely on their daily income to survive. I doubt if any enforcement will even force them to stay at home,” he stated.