Wednesday, 01 April 2020 06:07

Nigerians groan under lockdown as FG promises review of its protocol

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Following the lockdown, federal capital territory, was literally a ghost city as Commercial activities were grounded and many roads deserted in compliance with the presidential order. Visible on major roads were hooded security operatives who manned strategic spots to ensure that only essential services providers were allowed to move.

In Kugbo for instance, soldiers manning some checkpoints were seen conducting security checks on motorists before granting them access into the city. Aside the security search, motorists and their passengers were asked to identify themselves.

Impatient motorists who could not stand the huge traffic as a result of the security checkpoint stubbornly drove against the traffic, but got arrested by the task force team. Some motorists who converted their private vehicles for commercial purposes were arrested and their passengers asked to disembark.

Commercial motorcyclists (okada riders) in some neighborhoods in the capital were simply not bothered with the lockdown order. They ferried willing commuters to and from some neighborhood markets. Few Okada riders made it to the major roads but were apprehended by policemen who either turned them back or ordered their passengers to disembark and go on a long, lonely walk.

Some commuters were seen at bus stops, with no buses in sight. Some residents, however, braved the odds; in search of food. Assistant Superintendent of Police, John Idaho, told reporters that some residents of Lokogoma, begged to be allowed to go out to “buy food.”

Also in Lagos, the seething economic hub of 20 million that residents say never sleeps — was silenced Tuesday as Africa’s largest city went into lockdown to stave off the coronavirus.

On a key highway leading to the capital, a group of boys playing football had replaced the usual mass of cars, buses and lorries.

Police dressed in protective gear stopped vehicles coming into or leaving Lagos state and refused to let any deemed non-essential pass. A hundred trucks carrying cement from the company of Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote stood motionless in a line at one checkpoint.

Along the main road through the middle class neighbourhood of Lekki, betting shops, mattress stores, churches, florists and scrap metal dealers had all closed their doors.

But in the alleyways of the poorer district of Ajah there was clear anxiety and rising anger. Most of the people here have very little savings to fall back on. They live hand-to-mouth, relying on their daily earnings to survive.

Police had passed by in the early hours to disperse the few people refusing to obey the lockdown.

Margaret Ajeji was still out on the street smoking a catfish to sell to any rare passersby.

Food stores are allowed to remain open — and it seemed those hawking their goods by the side of the roads were being allowed to keep working. But it wasn’t much help. “People have no money to eat. They don’t buy anything,” Ajeji lamented.

Next to her, Tewole was trying to sell the sachets of water that provide one of the only sources of drinking water for many Nigerians.

She had only had two customers all morning.

“If I don’t sell this water then I won’t make my small income,” she said in Pidgin, the widely spoken local language. “I won’t have anything to eat. If my children get sick there won’t be any money to take them to hospital.”

Young man Samuel Agber could not hide his desperation. “We work and still go hungry in Nigeria, so what about when we stay at home,” he said. “They have to restrict movement, but provide food for us. We are humans, we need to eat.”

Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 said it has however, met with security chiefs in the country regarding the review of the protocols for implementing the 14-day lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Chairman of the task force and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, who spoke during a live Presidential Task Force briefing on COVID-19 in Abuja on Tuesday, reiterated that the lockdown was for the benefit of the country and its citizens.

Mustapha said, “The presidential task force has met with the security chiefs to smoothen rough edges of implementation within the first day of implementation and we are working on issuing an appropriate restriction protocol and exemption guidelines, which will guide the subsequent days of restrictions.

“Initial feedback is that there is substantial compliance, however, there are violations of those restrictions by citizens that we desire to protect. Let me emphasise that the decision to lock down is to prevent community spread which might be dangerous to manage.

“It can only be done by Nigerians and for Nigerians. So, we use this medium to implore our people and plead with them to please respect and honour restrictions that have been imposed for the good of our people and nation.”