Molly Kilete, Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, James Ojo, Fred Itua, Fred Ezeh, Agu Dawn and Charity Nwakaudu, Abuja and Adewale Sanyaolu
Residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja and Lagos, yesterday, resumed normal daily life, five weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari imposed a total lockdown, following the outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 with scant respect for protocol and other advisories.
Although many wore face masks, the directive on social distancing was cast overboard raising concern that Nigeria might record a spike in the coming weeks, because of defiance of directives and protocols. Banks, motor parks, popular plazas and shops, were besieged by residents who flouted directives.
An angry Presidential Taskforce on Coronavirus (COVID-19) has raised concern over the rowdy scenes in Lagos, Ogun and Federal Capital Territory (FCT), which it described as dangerous.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, warned against a spike.
“The PTF has been monitoring the level of compliance with some of the measures and early observations showed lack of compliance with social distancing and wearing of masks. We note particularly the chaotic scenes around the banks and other financial institutions. We must reiterate that the danger of infection is not over and that individual actions will contribute to the success or failure of our measures.
“We urge citizens to minimise the risk of getting infected while trying to transact in the banks. We similarly urge the banks to ensure that their ATMs and online banking systems are in good order and stocked regularly to avoid convergence of customers in their premises.
“The PTF fully understands the desire of Nigerians to come out to continue their lives after five weeks of lockdown. States governments and security agencies have, however, been advised to enforce the measures rigidly and violators will be prosecuted. Let me remind you, once more, that this easing up is in phases and those who are permitted to open have clearly been defined. Our admonition to Nigerians is that it is still desirable to stay at home if there is no compelling reason to go out and to comply with the measures always, whether at home or not.”
Mustapha said that the PTF has also received reports on the level of compliance with the nationwide ban on inter-state movement.
“The objective of the ban is to slow down the spread of virus across state boundaries. The determination of government to enforce this policy is not in doubt and as we progress, we believe that proper alignment with the directives of Mr. President would be pursued.”
He reiterated the need for Nigerians to comply with the directives on lockdown ease.
“As we journey into this new phase of measures, it is imperative that I re-iterate the importance of adherence to the guidelines more so that preliminary reports indicate that there is observable high level of breaches by the citizenry.
Director General of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, admitted that more cases would be recorded with the easing of the lockdown. He called on Nigerians to conduct themselves based on the issued guidelines in order to check the spread of the virus.
“It is not the guidelines per se, it is the thinking behind it. How do we want to manage the risk of explosion and transmission? Today, we might forgive a little bit because it is the first day. We will have infection because of what happened today; no doubt about that. But how can we learn from the mistakes of today into tomorrow, next tomorrow so by Friday hopefully we have normalised some of these things.
“Yes, we knew today would be a problem because for the first time, people were let out of their homes but now they are out and we have seen the sunlight again, the challenge for us as a society is how do we now organise ourselves to mitigate these risks and limit transmission?
“We might have a few extra infection today and tomorrow but what we don’t want is an explosion of new infections. If we do have that infection, there will be almost no choice left for the leadership of the country than to ask all of us to go back into our homes. So, for the benefit of coming out to reopen parts of the economy, there is a price to pay which is to reorganise ourselves to do this safely.”
PTF National Coordinator, Dr. Sani Aliyu said: “Easing of lockdown is in no way a license or permission to return to business as usual. It is absolutely necessary to continue to maintain all the measures that will protect us.
“We must all wear our masks, keep washing our hands, maintain physical distancing of 2m, and all the other directives issued for this period of gradual and phased easing of the lockdown.”
Bedlam in Lagos, FCT
As early as 8am, most of the bank branches and Automated Teller Machines (ATM) on Iju road in Lagos had a crowd of customers waiting. Security officers at the banks had a hectic time controlling the crowd to ensure they were orderly while trying to ensure that they maintain social distancing.
Some of the bank customers who spoke to Daily Sun in separate interviews expressed displeasure at the attitude of most Lagosians who in their bid to get into the banking halls broke the rules of protocols, especially at it relates to social distancing.
A bank customer who identified herself as Mrs.Shola Adetunji, said banks were not to blame for abuse of protocols as established by NCDC but customers who in flagrant abuse of the directive decided to cluster.
Another customer who identified himself as Kazeem Adekunbi, said he was in the bank to renew his Automated Teller Machine(ATM) card which expired last month, saying the situation at the bank yesterday morning got him discouraged.
One of the customers, Miss Tope Abosede, told Daily Sun that the desire to beat curfew which begins by 8pm informed the scramble.
In the FCT, traffic officials including the Police, mounted a roadblock at the end of AYA bridge in Asokoro, Abuja, turning back high capacity buses who loaded more passengers than what the officials had directed.
Residents who reside in satellite towns like Kubwa, Nyanya, Lugbe, among others, were held up at various checkpoints mounted by combined security agents.
Residents without face masks who attempted to gain access into the city centre, were stopped by security agents and turned back.
Commercial vehicles who flouted government’s directive on the number of persons they should carry, where also stopped at checkpoints and denied access into the city.
The stop and search operation which wasn’t announced by the FCT Administration ahead of resumption of work, also led to a total chaos. Motorists spent over two hours trapped at various checkpoints, while those who couldn’t stand the stress jettisoned their trip to the city centre and returned home.
FCT Administration was said to have asked high capacity commercial buses and other taxi operators to reduce the number of passengers they carry per trip (two at the back, one at the front) for taxi cabs and three passengers per seat roll for high capacity coaster buses but many defaulted. There was heavy traffic at Wuse and Utako markets, as traders who turned up to open their shop for business were asked to go back to their homes by security personnel stationed there.
Also a visit to the neighbourhood centre at Zone 3, Abuja, showed that several traders turned up to open their shops for business, but were not allowed to go in.