Despite the rising cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, necessitating prolonged shutdown of many public places by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), operators of viewing centres seem to have defied the lockdown by flinging their gates and doors open to customers.
Notoriously flouting this safety rule are operators of football viewing centres in various Abuja suburbs, who feel they should not miss out on the restarted European league. Many football lovers keep flooding these fun spots to watch and even bet on their favourite teams.
From Apo, Lokogoma to Galadinmawa, booming viewing centres are ubiquitous. In some mini halls, over 60 persons could be seen cramped in there, with total disregard to COVID-19 safety precautions. Majority of them do not wear facemasks nor use hand sanitizer as stipulated.
Sources said some of the centres, which opened in Kubwa were recently busted by the police who drove people out and warned the organizers not to reopen. The same, however, cannot be said of centres in other less urban areas of the FCT. In one of the centres in Apo, they have people stationed to be on the lookout for law enforcers.
The patrons of some of these places insist there is no COVID-19 and they scorn anyone who comes in with a facemask or any other protecting kit. In one of the centres, Daily Sun spoke discreetly with the organizer called Jega:
“See, forget about that coronavirus nonsense they are saying. They are using it to stylishly embezzle money. Our businesses have been closed for almost three months these politicians are not feeling our hunger. They have houses upon houses and so much money to sustain them some of us need to hustle.
“When they lifted the lockdown, they forgot that some people’s daily bread still comes from some of these businesses they left closed. The small N100 that people pay to watch a match is what I used to feed my wife and family. These people that didn’t provide any time of palliative, are the ones telling us to close down our business. They are not serious.”
In another centre in Nyanya, there were no less than 70 persons gathered. The place bubbled like the pre-coronavirus era. Yet, there was no police interference, neither was there any fear for it.
By the corner were mini-bars and barbeque spots. These places had their own crowds. One of the customers, Ramon Shuaibu, said: “I don’t fear any coronavirus, if it was as bad as they are painting it, then people will be dropping dead daily.
“It is not like I don’t believe that there is coronavirus, I do believe but I just don’t think it is that bad. Apart from that, we have been kept at home for so long, starved of money, starved of entertainment as well. Now, this is one of the most entertaining matches and I don’t have money to renew my subscription. My decoder is just there. So, that’s why I came. There’s nothing to really be so scared of.”
This particular centre in Nyanya was dominated by elderly people. They expressed joy over every goal, touching one another laughing and making jokes about the virus without any social distancing.
Also, at a centre in Lokogoma, its owner declined to be named: “The truth is that even many of the police officers don’t believe in this coronavirus thing. We settle some of them before each game so that they can look the other way.
“The government needs to understand that people are hungry, not just us, even the police too. People are bored and people are tired. Why not just allow life to go on as usual? It is honestly frustrating. Why can’t they even tell the general public the drugs they give the people that have recovered, so that people will know what to take if they experience symptoms? They should do this and let businesses like ours go on.
“During this period, there were days that my children had nothing to eat. What should I do, should I steal? I try my best to space the chairs so that there can be some sort of reasonable distancing at least. That is the best I can do. We honestly need to just move on with our lives and businesses.”