The virtual shutdown of the nation occasioned by the global CONVID-19 pandemic is fast taking its toll on Nigeria as citizens continued to disobey the lockdown order of both the federal and some states’ governments.
Specifically, residents who were visibly angry over the order said it was wrong for government to keep them indoor without providing for their feeding needs.
Their angst is coming as the federal government Tuesday commenced the disbursement of N446.6 million to some 22,380 poor and vulnerable households in nine benefiting local government areas of Kaduna state under the National Cash Transfer Programme.
As at Tuesday, over three of the 11 million targeted vulnerable persons across the 36 states, including the FCT, may have benefitted from the N20,000 federal government’s palliative.
The states that had benefitted so far include FCT, Nasarawa, Katsina, Anambra, Kwara, Kogi and Adamawa among others.
Following the outbreak of the pandemic, President Muhammadu Buhari on Mach 27 ordered a lockdown of Lagos and Ogun states as well as Abuja, the nation’s capital city for two weeks expected to end Sunday.
However, Ogun state began the lockdown Friday, a week after the presidential order as Governor Dapo Abiodun pleaded with the president that his people be allowed to prepare.
However, in an open defiance of the order Tuesday, motorists in Abuja, the nation’s capital city hit the roads causing heavy gridlock along Kubwa expressway as well as Mabushi/Kado/Gwarimpa road.
At Kubwa Expressway, some of the motorists blamed the gridlock on the combined security operatives who blocked the main express road thereby leaving over 1,000 vehicles stranded.
One of our correspondents who was also caught in the traffic logjam, observed that majority of car owners and other drivers in the holdup were not essential service workers exempted from the lockdown.
While the combined security operatives arrested and seized some vehicles, some motorists angered by the standstill gridlock were seen exchanging hot argument with the security officers who blocked the main expressway.
One of our reporters who drove along the road spent close to three hours in the said gridlock, during which a motorist was seen exchanging words with a security personnel.
The motorist was specifically asking the police officer if he wanted him to die of hunger at home.
“How do I feed my children? Do you want me to die of hunger? I am not a government worker that will receive salary at the end of the month. I have to deliver these cloths in my car to my customers before I can have money to buy food for my family,” the elderly man who identified himself as a dry cleaner told one of the police officers in anger.
Our correspondent who spent close to three hours in the said gridlock report that security officers on the road were also seen demanding special pass from those who identified themselves as essential service workers, thereby causing argument and delay.
Also at the Mabushi/Kado/Gwarimpa Expressway, security personnel had hectic time checking motorists, most whom, Blueprint gathered, were not essential service providers.
And in his response to the N20, 000 palliative, a resident of Gwarimpa, Mr. Sulaiman Salman, said he was yet to be clear on the criteria for determining who benefits or who does not.
He said: “They say the federal government is giving out N20, 000 palliative to the poor. How does government determine who is the poor? I think government is encouraging the people to go out.
“If you locked down everybody and you now singled out some people you call the poor, how would others fend for themselves? This is a question no one seems to be answering. I think government has to revisit this because there is serious hunger in the land. So, do you want to blame people for moving around? Even before this COVID-19 of a thing, we were hungry, things are now worse with the lockdown.”
Similarly, a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) correspondent, who went round town, discovered that there were many people moving about in some streets along Gwarimpa, Kubwa and many vehicles on the expressway.
The enforcement agents at the road blocks were seen making sure that only essential workers were allowed access to move freely, telling them to provide identification before allowing them passage.
Mrs. Nnenna Offor, an essential worker, who commended the enforcement team, said many people were not taking coronavirus seriously and were violating the lockdown directive.
“It’s for our good to protect ourselves and loved ones, this will help curb the virus,” she said.
Another passer-by who pleaded anonymity, said he came out because he heard that people were allowed to move around.
“I was asked to go back home, I am happy to see that the law enforcement officers are working hard to help curb Covid-19.
He also advised Abuja residents to continue to stay at home and maintain social distance.
They law enforcement officers seen were of the Nigeria Police, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Federal Road Safety Corps.(NAN).
Also in Kuje Area Council, more than 50 motorcycles, second hand clothes traders and other defaulters of the stay-at-home order were arrested for violating the directive.
Chairman FCT Ministerial Committee Task Force on Sensitisation on COVID-19 Lockdown Sunday D. Zaka made this known to Blueprint in Kuje.
He stated that the arrests were made after several appeals to the public to comply with the directive failed to yield the desired results.
Zaka regretted that many Nigerians were approaching the coronavirus epidemic with casual attitude and preferred to go about their business despite the likely danger posed to them through close contact with infected persons.
“We have arrested more than 50 motorcycles and clothes traders since the lockdown started to impress on people our resolve to implement the directive of the government.
“We moved about the operation with the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) and the Executive Chairman of Kuje Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abdullahi Sulaiman Sabo. People must obey the sit-at-home order,” he said.
The task force chairman also stated that the surveillance and enforcement would not be limited to the market days alone, but would continue until the shutdown is lifted.
Kuje Divisional Police Officer [DPO] Harrison Oruruo confirmed the arrests and warned that future defaulters maybe subjected to two-week isolation at a correctional service centre to bring them back to their senses.
In a related development, some Aba residents Tuesday flouted the stay-at-home executive order of the Abia state government meant to check the possible spread of coronavirus into the state.
News Agency of Nigeria reports that Governor Okezie Ikpeazu Tuesday, March 24, endorsed a set of directives meant to check the spread of the pandemic in the state.
The directives included buses taking fewer passengers and traders procuring hand-washing materials for customers entering their shops and stalls.
The government later ordered a complete lockdown of the state April 1 to ensure the disease did not get into the state, which was yet to record any case.
NAN correspondent who went round the town discovered that there were many people moving about in some streets along the Aba-Owerri Road and adjoining streets.
The news agency also observed that contrary to government’s instructions, some non-essential service businesses were opened to customers in the city.
Some shops along the Abia University Teaching Hospital Road and adjoining streets, like barbing salons, hairdressing salons, electrical and electronic shops, as well as businesses dealing in general wares were opened.
Most transporters, who flouted the order to operate in the city, were carrying more passengers than government directed them to carry at a time, against the social distancing protocol.
A driver, who pleaded anonymity, told this correspondent that they were taking more passengers because there were few vehicles on the road, with many passengers on the streets.
Mr. Ndudiri Anyaehie, a resident, who spoke with NAN, said government was responsible for residents flouting the stay-at-home order.
“If the government of Abia had paid workers’ salaries before the lockdown, it would have been easy for people to adhere to the directive.
“If both the state and the Federal Governments had given people food, they would have stayed at home. What you see driving people out to the streets is not money, it is to get food for themselves and their family members.
“I tell you that in Aba, you can hardly get 70 per cent compliance, if the government fails to meet their feeding needs, during the lockdown. So our government should do the right thing, then the right answer will come out of it,” he said.
Buhari hold the ace
Meanwhile, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has said only President Muhammadu Buhari can decide if the lockdown of Lagos, Ogun and the FCT would be extended or not.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 Boss Mustapha said this Tuesday while briefing journalists at Lagos House, Marina after an inspection of the different isolation centres in the state.
The visiting team included among others, Minister for Information and Culture Lai Mohammed; Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire and Minister of Interior Affairs Rauf Aregbesola.
Accompanied by Lagos state Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, they visited facilities at Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Onikan, Lagos Island; Mainland Infectious Disease Hospital, IDH, Yaba; Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Idi-Araba and Gbagada General Hospital, Isolation Centre, Gbagada.
Addressing journalists after the visit, Mustapha said: “Basically, this is part of the consultation we are looking at the objectives that were set when the Lockdown and Quarantine Declaration 2020 was signed by the president and subsequently by other state.
“Before the end of the week, we will do an evaluation and see how the objectives that were set are being met. At the end of that exercise, we will have the responsibility of reporting back to Mr. President. The president did say the declaration was on the advice of Minister of Health and experts.
“At the end of our valuation, our advice and recommendation will be presented to Mr. President and at that point, he and he alone can take that decision when the lockdown would either be extended or it will stop at the expiration of 14 days.
“In his address to the nation, he did say 14 days in the first instance. So it is opened. It is based on what has happened within these 14 days: have they been met? Have they satisfied the objectives? Has it gone in the direction we wanted it go?
“If that has been achieved, he will look at all the information available to him as the President of Nigeria and I can assure you that he will take a decision that is in the best interest of Nigerians.”
Giving the team’s assessment at the end of the facility tour, Mustapha said he was convinced that ravaging coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria would soon be a thing of the past.
He lauded the Lagos state government’s efforts towards curtailing the pandemic, saying “Lagos is doing a great job.”
To the journalists, he said: “Thank you for the great job that you’re doing in supporting the work that is being undertaken by His Excellency, the Governor of Lagos State and his team.
“We’ve just taken a tour of these facilities that is very important place in anticipation that we’ll have to receive patients here.
“So far, I think Lagos State is doing a great job. From what I’ve seen here, they’re putting up a first class and a world class facility that will help us in the management of those that are affected with COVID-19.
“I think we are on course and the basic strategy of the national response is containment, try as much as possible to reduce spreads to tracking of those that have already been infected so that we minimize the case of community transmission.
“We are doing very well. So far, processes that have been put in place, the plans, the objectives are being achieved.
“I listened to the briefing of the commissioner for Lagos State yesterday, where there was quite a clear indication that the reason for the lockdown and the processes that have been put in place is achieving its desired objective.”
The SGF further called on the media to continue to keep creating awareness among the people on the need to “maintain social distancing, we need to maintain personal hygiene and we need to report anybody within the community who has shown symptoms of the infection, so that as quickly as possible, the help that is desired can be extended to those persons. So thank you very much.”
Also speaking, Governor Sanwo-Olu announced the discharge of yet another female patient from Yaba Isolation Centre after testing negative to the disease.
He said: “It is with immense joy I announce the discharge of another patient (a female), who has fully recovered from our facility at Yaba. This brings to 32, the number of patients we have successfully managed and discharged in Lagos.
“I look forward to sharing more great news in the coming days. This is indicative of the successes we are recording in our offensive against #COVID19. We are resolute in our resolve, we have the upper hand, we are winning and victory is surely ours.”