Ease of Lockdown in Lagos and FCT: FG ruminates another lockdown

by Duke Magazine

With the loads of admonishing words from all tiers of government and different organizations for people to practice social distancing while going out for their daily activities after 5 weeks of total lockdown, the streets of Lagos and Abuja were seen flooded with larger number of people going about, and flouting the lay-down safe practices of curbing the coronavirus spread.

This lackadaisical attitude of people in taking responsibility of their own safety has triggered an alarm from the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, worrying that the non-compliance to social distancing and wearing of masks might consequently cause a spike in the number coronavirus cases in Lagos, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, and other states of the federation.

The Presidential Task Force, PTF, on COVID-19 also expressed their dissatisfaction and dismay at the ill-practice of social distancing and wearing of face played out by Nigerians on Monday. 

The federal government has to this effect said on Monday evening that it might be compelled to proclaim another round of lockdown across the country. This as a result of fears being raised from how Nigerians are handling the current health menace.

It can be seen on the streets of Lagos how there are traffic gridlocks on major roads of the state, and motorists spent hours before getting to their destinations. The banking hall of commercial banks were congested with customers rid off the social distancing practice, with the security personnel of banks finding it difficult to put decorum at bay for the customers.

Shops were opened at every areas, social distancing was found amiss, as every Tom, Dick, and Harry going about with trading activities of heavy buying and mingling about.

In his reaction to the huge turn out of Lagos residents, Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, described the development as “expected” but quite overwhelming.

Omotoso said: “By human nature, people don’t like being caged or locked down. The influx is expected, having stayed at home for weeks but the number was just overwhelming. That is one of the reasons Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu directed civil servants to remain at home for now.

“Don’t forget some bank customers do not have electronic banking facility, they have to be physically present at the bank to withdraw and do other transactions, that is why we had a crowd at different banks today (Monday). We appreciate Lagosians for their patience and perseverance.

We believe that as time goes, the situation will subside and we begin to see a high level of compliance by residents.”

Even as the Police has been given the prerogative to enforce the use of face masks in Lagos, the Commissioner of Police, Lagos Police Command, CP Hakeem Odumosu, vowed that anyone who flouts the directive to wear face masks or abide by the social distancing rule would be dealt with.

Addressing newsmen, Odumosu said: “This time, police will not arrest you for vehicle particulars, but for refusing to put on face mask and for not keeping social distance.  Okada  activities have been suspended.

’Since we started the lockdown, we have not had any case of police brutality in Lagos, because we are using persuasive enforcement, and we will continue on that.

“Those arrested so far, are those who did not put on the face mask, passenger, driver or conductor. Anyone not putting facemask will be arrested. Anyone carrying more than the stipulated number of passengers without social distancing will be stopped.

‘’The operatives on enforcement will just ask the excess passengers to get down and the bus will continue its journey with the expected number of passengers. Before any arrest can be made on violators, it will be after 8.p.m.

We went around the city as early as  5.am, all the barricades have been removed and no policeman is stopping anyone anywhere. By and large, the enforcement is a persuasive one, we will persuade people.”

The nation’s capital, Abuja’s scenario was not any different, as residents came out en masse to reach out to their daily activities.

Reacting to the easing of the lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and the FCT, President of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, Dr. Francis Faduyile, said the country will see a spike in positive cases of the coronavirus.

In his statement, Faduyile said: 

“What I have seen so far is that a lot of people came out today (yesterday) and we have a lot of non-compliance with the regulations given in terms of social distancing as well as being guided in public places.

“There was a large crowd at several banks. Some of the banking halls were filled with upward of 50 to 70 people and also a large crowd by the banks’ premises too. There were closed contacts in those banks. Also, in commercial buses, people were sitting too close to each other and these are the fears we envisaged with the relaxation of the lockdown.

This development is definitely working against all the regulations towards the containment of the disease and it shows that it is more likely we will have a spike in positive cases as the NMA envisaged.”

He, then, enjoin the Federal and State governments to be proactive in making sure all the regulations put in place to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 are well adhered to.

He further said: 

“Since the government has relaxed the lockdown, they should be able to find ways to ensure that there is compliance to those guidelines they have put in place.”

Furthermore, the Association of the Medical Laboratory of Nigeria, AMLSN, yesterday, warned that the gainful purpose of the lockdown may be defeated should Nigerians fail to keep to the rules of social distancing.

The National Publicity Secretary of AMLSN, Dr. Ifeanyi Casmier, said: 

“Monday was our first experiment of the easing of the lockdown and the outing in Lagos and some parts in the FCT left much to be desired. Our worry as medical experts is that it does appear that the gains made in the lockdown may largely be compromised by the way Nigerians compromised the rules of social distancing like in Lagos, people who went to various banking halls.

“I think Nigerians must know that they must take responsibility for their lives and safety because the government has issued guidelines, the government will not, therefore, come to force you to comply with the guidelines.

“If we do not attain the platinum of flattening the curve, it will be foolhardy to let loose the floodgate. People must understand that even though the government has eased lockdown, it does not mean that we have come to the end of the COVID-19 virus. It is here and we now have community transmission.”

“I also appeal to those in the banking industry to open all their branches to avoid people congregating in one branch because if you limit the number of branches that are opened, people will crowd there and make a compromise of the entire effort.”

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 are displeased with the poor safety practice of Nigerians on Monday, and in their meeting yesterday, the Chairman of the PTF, Boss Mustapha reiterates the need for another round of lockdown if there tends to be a spike in the number of confirmed cases from the virus.

Mustapha said: 

“The PTF has been monitoring the level of compliance with some of the measures and early observations showed a lack of compliance with social distancing and wearing of masks.

We note particularly the chaotic scenes around the banks and other financial institutions. We must reiterate that the danger of infection is not over and that individual actions will contribute to the success or failure of our measures.

“We urge citizens to minimize the risk of getting infected while trying to do transactions in the banks. We similarly urge the banks to ensure that their ATMs and online banking systems are in good order and stocked regularly to avoid convergence of customers on their premises.

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