Desmond Mgboh, Kano
Some weeks ago, when the order on lockdown and border closure was announced by Kano State Government, observers had looked forward to empty streets, shut shops, locked markets, zero traffics and restricted movements. A month into the lock down intended to halt the spread of coronavirus disease, nothing of these has happened.
In the actual sense, residents have in the past weeks, observed these orders in breasches, while government institutions, especially the security agencies, assigned to enforce compliance have not done an impressive job either. Today, the atmosphere is near care- free, rarely depicting the seriousness of the pandemic or the energy the government is exercising to overcome the challenges.
One of the persons to attest- though with pains – that something is wrong with the implementation of the lockdown is Governor Umar Ganduje. In one of his narratives at the Government House, he told his audience how he was shocked at the number of cars still plying the roads during the lockdown days.
He said he was once on the flyover on Murtala Mohammed Way, Kano, to observe the traffic, he lamented that what he saw was unacceptable. He invited the Commissioner of Police, Habu Sani, for a meeting that same night, where they mapped out fresh initiatives to strengthen the lockdown.
Even at that, the situation has largely remained the same. From beer parlours, Isi Ehu joints, pepper soup joints to hotels and rendezvous in the metropolis, abuse of the lockdown is an undisputed norm.
At nights, many of these spots and fun givers resurrect from the ashes of a dormant day. Just like in wartime settings, the sellers conduct their markets in the dark to avoid attracting unwelcome attention. Fun seekers sneak into the joints, delightfully enjoying the night, conversing in whispers and low tones until the night is weary or the green bottles are empty.
Ayodele Ahmed, a mechanic told Daily Sun in one of these joints: “It has not been easy. One has spent the whole day loitering about the house without doing much. Children, all the noise in the yard; this is the only escape from the boredom. I assure you it is just a few bottles.”
It was observed that a number of the hotels in Sabon- Garri are operating. Apart from few prostitutes and cars that adorned their premises, another sign that they still retained a good share of their clients, despite the scare of the pandemic, was that their generator sets ran throughout the night.
Another nighttime fun seeker, Mr. Brown Agbo, said: “In this business, there is no way you can run all these generator sets with empty rooms. It is either the clients are coming in to take the rooms or you shut down the sets to cut your cost.”
A few days ago, the police at the Market Post, got angry and raided an early morning black market that emerged on the foot of the popular Sabon Garri Market. Items sold in the market that lies on France Road by Court Road included soup making vegetables, dry fish, red oil, dry fish, ogbonno, red pepper and tomatoes.
Initially, attendance at the market was sparse, with buyers strolling in to buy. But with time, the market grew in reputation and size, a result that it was not just defiling the lockdown, but had become a bad taste for social distancing, with women pushing, hurrying to buy.
It was on this strength that police, led by the Divisional Police Officer of the Market Post dispersed patrons of the market. But soon after, the market resurfaced, a bit down the road, with the same desperation and surge. The experience of this market is not different from the experiences of smaller markets or locally initiated black markets to serve the immediate communities.
The fruit and vegetable market at Yankaba is booming like ever, with buyers rushing at dawn to buy several baskets of tomatoes and other food items like yams, potatoes and apples. The same defilement of the lockdown is true of the orange market, otherwise known as Yan Lemo Market on Zaria Road.
If there was any segment of the Kano society that had defiled the lockdown with impunity, it is the companies and factories. Some of these factories claimed they were exempted from the order. Some others, as time went by, were able to produce their own papers, fake or real, and distribute to their workers who presented same at checkpoints.
Some soft drink companies have been working at nights. They were sighted on several occasions, dropping off their factory workers at nights to quietly pick up them after work at designated locations.
Almost all the pure water factories and outlets are working. At checkpoints, the workers present white duplicate papers issued by their associations. Mr. Francis Abu is a supervisor in one of these factories. He told Daily Sun: “We have been producing. What do you want the people to drink in their homes?”
Not everybody is happy with the way things are anyway. There are those who contend that the state government should unlock all or lockdown everybody. The fresh disquiet is anchored on the grounds that selective exemptions have made some millionaires at this time, but left so many others broke.
An unnamed angry trader said: “While some people are working or trading and earning unusual income due to the rush for the limited copies of their products, some of us have not earned a kobo as traders since the order of the lockdown.”
Beyond the market boom is the use of sports to offend the spirit of the lockdown in the state. At dawn, the ancient city of Kano is littered with men and women, boys and girls in different garbs and attires, walking, jogging and running in different directions.
Sports that are renowned for the spike in these activities are Court Road by Igbo Road, Airport Road, Pounded Yam Junction, Air Force Base, up to Airport Junction, Kastina Road, Murtala Mohammed Way and Ahmadu Bello Way. The argument they easily put forth is that sporting exercise, at this time, is fundamental to a healthy life, due to the long hours of dormant stay at home.
But the bad part of the deal is that most of these sports are done in close proximity and at the expense of social distancing. “Many a times, they run in a small groups, breathing down the shoulders of one another,” said one of them who begged not be mentioned.
Alhaji Audu Abubakar lamented that the shaky foot of the lockdown in the state is also evident at burials. He regretted that on many occasions, crowds of mourners that accompany the dead to the graveside are well beyond the estimated number: “Even after burials, mourners still gather in large numbers for condolences.”
Only recently, government announced Mondays and Thursdays as open days for the people to restock their reserves. The opening day begins at 10 00 am and terminates at 600 pm. But while the residents are quick to dash out at dawn, they are never ready to retreat to their homes at the approved time.
Bello Usama said: “People move out with first stare of daylight, they don’t have to wait for 10.00 am before they rush out for their daily transactions. And at 6.00pm when they are due to go back, nobody is there to enforce the strict compliance to the order.” He added that inter-state traffic is still rampant, especially at night: “Many of those assigned to check these big vehicles from entering or departing the state have not done a good job.”
Contacted on phone, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Abdullahi Haruna Kiyawa, however, said security agencies are doing their best. He insisted that anybody who said the lockdown was ineffective was only expressing his personal opinion.