…number of mobile courts reduced
…ministerial task force must act now, residents insists….
Flagrant disregards for Covid-19 prevention guidelines remains conspicuous in some Satelite towns around Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and it’s neighboring bother Communities. This could result in a surge in the number of cases of the novel dreaded virus in Nigeria for obvious reasons. The FCT being a host to tourists, political activities and jobs seekers is densely populated with people travelling in and out it shores to different parts of the country on daily basis.
Recall that upon discovery of the virus in Nigeria in February 27 this year, there where strick regulations and guidelines for preventing the disease including the use of mobile courts to try erring citizens. Citizens where locked up in their homes for five weeks before the commencement of the ease of lockdown which began in phases with the first in May and the second in June. The second phase which is meant to end on July 20, was recently extended to August 6 due to the Sallah celebrations. This brought a lot of respite for Nigerians; number of mobile courts have now reduced, interstate travels are activated religious activities have resume, and some other restricted activities. All these brought a lot of respite for citizens. But the respite is now being taken advantage of. Citizens are now taking advantage of the freedom brought by the ease of the lockdown. No one seems interested in inconveniencing themselves. Most citizens come out without observing the rules of the ease of the lockdown such as maintaining social distance, compulsory use of face masks and reduced number of passengers in vehicles. Tricycles are to limit their activities to areas already designated and are allowed a maximum of 3 persons (driver and two passengers). Taxis are mandated to carry a maximum of 4 persons at a time (driver and 3 persons). Buses are to reduce occupancy at any time to 50% of installed capacity. Banks are to limit access by customers to allow for safe distancing reasons and limit the number of staff working on their premises to between 30% and 50%. All these are currently being flouted due to the absence of enforcement.
TNG correspondent embarked on a journey from Nassarawa to Niger State passing through the FCT. It was a risky journey. Commercial buses canvassing for passengers from Masaka in Nassarawa State to Suleja in Niger State engage in overloading. They had no regards for Covid-19 prevention protocols of social distancing. They hiked the transport fares even while engaging in overloading. From Masaka (Nassarawa State) to Kubwa in the FCT for instance cost N800 which use to be N600 before Covid-19 period. New Nyanya and Gwandara residents also in neighboring Nassarawa also have to pay up to N700 to go to Suleja, Niger State. “Na four-four ohhh…” the bus conductor screamed agressively to passengers. “…. if u no one enter stay one side….” Meaning if you can’t pay the fare keep off the bus, the conductor announced.
Passengers with urgent appointment with no other options have to just risk it. There are a good number of them. They throng these buses rushing to catch up with one appointment or the other. TNG Managed to speak to one of them who pleaded anonymity. “I work with the FCTA (referring to the Federal Capital Territory Development Authority), I am going to Kubwa to inspect an Estate Layout design…. I got the instruction via WhatsApp this morning from my superior….” he said. Asked whether he is aware of the risk involved in boarding an overloaded vehicle, he said there is nothing to be afraid of since the lockdown has been eased. “I believe the virus (referring to Covid-19) has been dealt with. We have been boarding these types of vehicles for over a week now and nothing happened….” He said.
Hajiya Alero is a retailer. She buys wrappers and female shoes on whole sale at the Suleja Market to sell on ratail prices for her customers in New Nyanya and Masaka. According to her, siezing the must viable opportunity to gain more profits is very important incase one is taken unaware. She told TNG how the lockdown affected her business and how determined she is to cover up what she lost. “I am afraid of another lockdown, so I have to make money incase of another lockdown, things are hard she said. Finding a car from this place to Suleja is not easy, that is why am in this overloaded car” she said.
Reasons for flouting these prevention guidelines is not far fetched. The FCT ministerial task team for enforcement of Covid-19 prevention guidelines are no longer seen in that area. Even the mobile courts situated at AYA are no longer functional. Unlike during the lockdown the AYA which is a bypass in the FCT that leads to Niger, Kaduna and other FCT neighboring States used to be very busy area with security officials beeming their searchlights on defaulters of the Covid-19 prevention laws. This is no longer the case. Nigerians move in clusters and get loaded on vehicles without face masks and without social distance. “The authorities have to do something, things should not be taken for granted. The virus is real, Nigerians are too relaxed…. The mobile courts have to return, I don’t know why that have stopped working ….” A civil servant Mr Wilson Onoja told TNG.
Overloaded vehicles are visible within the road that leads to Suleja from Nassarawa State. Even commercial tricycles are not left out. Four passengers are loaded in each tricycle which is against two as instructed by the Covid-19 prevention guidelines by the Federal Goverment.
In other cases, Video evidence by TNG says it all. Citizens now go to church without face mask and sit as high as 9 per row which is against the Covid-19 prevention guidelines. When TNG visited a church at Nyanya area of the FCT, majority of the worshipers where not putting on face masks. Although they had the non-contact thermometers checking body temperature as well as hand sanitizers but the densely populated church had worshipers interacting without face mask which raises a lot of questions. The story is the same in some Mosques. Some of the mosques in Nyanya also had residents praying without facemasks. TNG accosted a worshipper Musa Ali who claimed that the Covid-19 breakout has been tamed to the bearest minimum. He said the ease of the lockdown means the goverment can contain the virus and have therefore allowed citizen to go about their normal business.
All these disregards for the covid-19 prevention guidelines reveals the fears allayed by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA). The NMA described as premature, the easing of the lockdown, even in phases, by the Federal Government. According to the NMA, Nigeria must learn from Ghana, where the same action produced 100 percent increase in infection rate in just a week. President of the Association, Francis Faduyile, stated this sometimes in May in a statement. Nigeria now nears 50,000 in number of cases of the dreaded virus increasing the epidemiological curve towards an upward spike.