Adetutu Folasade-Koyi, Romanus Ugwu, Uche Usim, Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Molly Kilete, James Ojo, Joseph Inokotong, Walter Ukaegbu, Paulinus Aidoghie, Fred Itua, Fred Ezeh, Okwe Obi, Samuel Bello, Charity Nwakaudu, Benjamin Babine, Abuja and Adewale Sanyaolu
The Federal Government has frowned at the flouting of the presidential lockdown directives by Abuja, Lagos and Ogun residents.
Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, said during the press briefing on the pandemic, yesterday, that the decision to lock down the three states was in the interest of the nation.
“Let me emphasize that the decision to lockdown is to prevent community spread which may be dangerous to manage. It can only be done by Nigerians and for Nigerians.”
Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said from the pronouncement of the president and the faskforce, the battle to rid the pandemic was being taken seriously from the top and urged citizens to cooperate. He said the strategy being deployed was that of containment.
“This is one of the reasons Mr. President asked us what we needed and gave us two weeks to free up the roads and enable us have the space to do this effectively. This comes at some pain to many Nigerians in Lagos, Ogun and FCT but it is a necessary precaution and recommendation to enable the health workers particularly in Lagos and Abuja have the opportunity to reach all of these contacts, make sure they are okay and bring those with symptoms into care as quickly as possible.
“In carrying out the directives of Mr. President, we need to think what we need to do for ourselves, we need to ask ourselves, do we really need to break these regulations? We will be destroying the efforts we are making collectively.
“So please, Nigerians, this is the time to really hold ourselves accountable by carrying out these measures. It is only by doing this and bearing this pain for the next few weeks that we will have a small chance of containing this outbreak.”
Stressing the need to enforce social distancing, he said: “If we are not in contact with each other, that virus cannot circulate amongst us.”
Also, Federal Government has pledged to reach more than 11 million Nigerians with palliatives to cushion the harsh effects.
Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouk, said Nigeria already has a social register with details of those considered as vulnerable in in 35 states, adding that the people belonged to around 2.6 million households.
Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, however, said certain flights considered essential will continue to happen.
He listed those aircrafts qualified to fly to include those in distress in other to save lives, those on technical stop – those needing to refuel, those on Medical evacuation, essential cargo flights, certain diplomatic flights, humanitarian flights – those bringing in food items and humanitarian supplies, those carrying medical equipment and medicine as well as security flights amongst others.
He said protocols have been set out one of which is that if a flight is on ground all the crew must remain on board which means the flight have two crews. He explained that the plane will not be serviced except to refuel.
However, investigations by Daily Sun in Abuja and Lagos, revealed substantial compliance as commercial activities were grounded and many roads deserted.
Visible on major roads were stern-looking security operatives who manned strategic spots to ensure that only essential service providers were allowed to move around town.
Bala Ciroma and Hakeem Odumosu, FCT and Lagos State commissioners of police, respectively, led security operatives to monitor compliance and crack down on erring residents.
Aside from the security search, motorists and their passengers were asked to identify themselves. Impatient motorists who could not stand the huge traffic as a result of the checkpoint stubbornly drove against the traffic, but were promptly arrested by the task force.
Some motorists who converted their private vehicles to commercial purposes were arrested and their passengers asked to disembark.
Ciroma, in an interview with Daily Sun in Abuja, expressed satisfaction with residents’ level ofcompliance on the first day and expressed hope that the situation would improve in the days ahead.
On the opening of some markets in the satellite towns, Ciroma said: “We will get to these markets and if they are not selling food items, then we will know what to do.”
Asked the number of persons arrested so far for violating the presidential order, he said a definite figure would be determined at the end of today.
On his part, director, Road Traffic Services, Aliyu Bodinga, expressed disappointment at the level of compliance by residents and said the team was doing everything possible to enforce the order.
Around Kuje, military men detained motorists for hours at some checkpoints. There were clashes between some military men and Customs personnel. Although Daily Sun could not immediately determine what led to the clash, a Customs personnel was brutalised in the end.
However, from Kubwa to Jikwoyi, Nyanya to Kuje, herdsmen moved freely with their cows, sheep and goats, devouring any green vegetation in sight.
In various parts of Abuja, commuters were stranded as motorists did not want to risk flouting the lockdown order to be on the road.
Along major roads, uniformed police complemented by traffic wardens, officers of the Federal Road Safety Corps, and the National Security and Civil Defence Corps dotted the landscape.
Roads around the Federal Secretariat were blocked with police vans; officers man the blockades, and ensured that only those on essential services were allowed free passage to their destinations.
Security agencies converged on the Eagle Square, complete with ambulances.
Assistant Superintendent of Police, John Idaho, told Daily Sun that some residents of Lokogoma begged to be allowed to go out to “buy food.”
Although the airport road, from Galadima junction to the city gate, through to the federal secretariat, was free, not manned by security agencies, their presence was felt at the Three Arms Zone from morning till late afternoon.
There were also clusters of policemen and FRSC officials at major intersections within the capital territory.
Majorly, Abuja roads were quiet, while hitherto bubbly neighbourhoods went cold.
Some filling stations were open but most were shut. For those who opened, there were no customers to sell to.
Construction sites within the city were also shut. More so, businesses around Nyanya, Karu, Jikwoyi, Kurudu, Orozo and Karshi, were totally shut.
However, pharmacies, hospitals and other essential service providers opened for business.
To enforce the order, groups of cops, assisted by the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) and other federal and state traffic officials, were fully deployed.
When they arrived Kurudu at about 1:20pm, they chased away roadside traders and others defying the order.
For unknown reasons, they did not extend their enforcement beyond Kurudu.
It was partial compliance in the Gudu axis of Abuja, as some residents were seen moving about without any inhibition.
A security agent who spoke with Daily Sun on the condition of anonymity, said law enforcers allowed the situation because residents gave pitiful reasons to be on the road.
It was the same scenario at the Farmer’s Market, Maitama, were traders were seen carrying out their usual transactions. But they lamented lack of patronage due to the lockdown.
In Jabi, Daily Sun saw a team comprising the Department of State Services (DSS), NSCDC, Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO),FRSC), the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), and Air Force with various items seized from defiant residents.
In the Karu axis, there was little or no compliance with the lockdown directive of the Federal Government.
Businesses, mostly grocery stores and salons, opened as usual. Artisans and masons were also on a building site totally engrossed in their work.
Motorcyclists leveraged on the weak enforcement to make brisk business as they took passengers to various destinations.
At the popular Abacha Road, there was a roadblock manned by policemen who quizzed motorists before allowing those with genuine reasons to pass.
Daily Sun observed that those who were not within the essential services bracket had to bribe their way through.
One of the policemen who spoke to Daily Sun said they were not given hand sanitizers, gloves or face masks: “Madam Journalist, as you are doing your job, let those in authority know that we have not been given sanitizers, hand gloves nor face masks. We are looking for those things ourselves. We do not want to contract coronavirus.”
In Kubwa, residents stayed indoors in compliance with the stay-at-home order.
However, despite the lockdown, vehicles and commercial motorcycle operators were seen driving moving by midday.
To guarantee total compliance, security agents barricaded some sections of the Gado Nasko Road, the busiest road in Kubwa.
At the road adjacent to Queens Plaza, Phase 4, some youths were seen collecting tolls before anyone was granted access.
A grocer in Kubwa, Mrs. Sharon Jones said: “The presidential order allows food sellers and those along the food value chain to operate within this two-week lockdown. But transporters are not allowed. So, how do we restock? Some of us get supplies almost daily but now we can’t. What are we going to sell in the next two weeks? The roads are empty. Those processing these items are not going to work. Hunger will kill people before the coronavirus itself.”
John Okrika, a provision store owner, predicted a mass revolt soon: “ People are going to invade the streets in search of daily bread. There is no way they can stay at home for two weeks. Never!”
Findings by Daily Sun across some fuel stations in the Lagos metropolis showed a very low level of patronage at major marketers’ fuel station and those of independent marketers.
Some of the fuel attendants lamented the low level of patronage, saying the level of sales recorded as at 4pm yesterday did not in any way justify their coming to work.
They said, should the situation continue, they may be forced to shut down operations to minimize their running cost.
However, the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) has urged the Federal Government to direct law enforcement agencies assigned to enforce restriction of movement to ensure that the movement of essential services across the country is not in any way hindered.
President of the council, High Chief Peter Ameh, gave the advice in a statement on Tuesday in Abuja.
He said the advice was necessary following complaints that basic and essential goods and services were unable to get to citizens across the federation, due to the movement restrictions directed by government.
Ameh added that the clampdown on transportation had also affected movement of personnel lawfully empowered and engaged in combating COVID-19.
“There is an urgent need to engage the services of the National Union of Road Transport Workers as well as certified airlines in the country to ensure swift response to emergencies and easy movement of personnel within the country.
“With the urgency attached to this recent development, we hereby call on the Federal Government to immediately direct and ensure that the movement of these essential services are not in any way hindered by law enforcement agencies assigned to enforce the movement restriction howsoever, across the country,” he said.