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Coronavirus: Despite lockdown, social distancing fails in Lagos

Except the public vehicles – the popular yellow buses and the mass transit buses – that are out of sight on major roads and highways…

Except the public vehicles – the popular yellow buses and the mass transit buses – that are out of sight on major roads and highways in Lagos, everything seems to be normal despite the lockdown in the state. Are Lagosians now defying the lockdown and the social distancing regulations? Our correspondents report!

From Lagos Mainland to the Island, Lagosians seem to be tired of the directive just one week after the Federal Government ordered the lockdown of Lagos, FCT and Ogun State.

Last week when the regulations took effect, the compliance was very appreciable though pedestrian movements remain conspicuous prompting many people to wonder where people were heading to. Some of them claimed to be factory workers who needed to get to their places of work.

However, this week especially with the relaxation by the government ordering markets to open from 10:00am to 2:00pm, Lagos highways are getting busy.

Yesterday, a trending video on social media showed heavy traffic around Jakande-Agunji axis of the Lekki-Epe Expressway.

Similarly, residents of the state have turned major highways to fitness centres where early morning drills and workouts are conducted.

This, according to observers, has defeated the essence of the social distancing measure.

Also our correspondents observed movements of some Okada riders at Ikeja axis, Alausa on the stretch of Lagos-Ibadan expressway, and Ojodu-Berger despite the lockdown.

Also, many malls were open and customers were allowed to go in for shopping amidst the lockdown.

Already, thousands of youths in the state are struggling to conquer the boredom of staying at home days into the lockdown.

To keep themselves busy, scores of youths in Ajegunle, Olodi, Amukoko, Ijora-Badia and Agege converted the ever-busy roads into football pitches to play against the best team in the area.

Driving through the city of Lagos on Monday and Tuesday, many were sighted around Surulere axis doing their early morning fitness exercise. Some tried to avoid one another in deference to the social distancing appeal.

With the allowance granted for markets to open, many people usually rush to the markets near their area, not minding the social distancing regulations.

At Berger market, trading activities continued unhindered. People went about their usual market hustle and hassle.

“I came to the market to buy one or two items which we don’t have at home. We bought some things last week before the lockdown started, we have exhausted some of the items,” said one Mrs. Olanrewaju who spoke with one of our correspondents.

Lagos residents move freely at Iyana-Ipaja in Lagos. April 06, 2020. Photo by: Benedict Uwalaka.
Lagos residents move freely at Iyana-Ipaja in Lagos. April 06, 2020. Photo by: Benedict Uwalaka.

Although the lockdown made provisions for people to leave their homes to buy food, policemen who mounted road blocks horse-whipped some would-be shoppers in the streets.

A factory worker who works in one of the factories at Agbara said he did night shift penultimate Sunday and was on his way home the next day when he walked into some policemen.

Frederick Okolie, 38, said he was beaten up by Policemen when he ventured outside.

“The factory that I work in paid me some money and I thought it was best to get some food in the house. But the police attacked us with sticks and beat us,” he said. “Now we have nothing to eat.”

More groaning under lockdown

Many Lagosians particularly those living on daily paid jobs are still lamenting that the lockdown is telling on their family negatively as they find it difficult to feed.

Mr. Chima Sixtus while narrating his situation said, “I was relieved of my job at a microfinance bank some few months ago, I am yet to get another job. My wife is into buying and selling. She helps people to buy items and get little commission on it. Due to the lockdown, she cannot do her business and she has been the one catering for the family since I lost my job.

“Now that she is not working, things are really difficult while those owing her money are also complaining that they are cash trap. Government should please put in place a better strategy that will make the relief materials promised get to those who really need them.

“Better still, instead of entrusting food items into the hands of some unfaithful individuals, government can send cash to its citizens via their BVN to purchase food items. Those who do not have bank account can be identified and treated differently,” he said.

Mrs. Olubunmi Ore residing at Surulere said she has not stepped out of her house since the lockdown began but lamented poor power supply, which she said is making it very uninteresting staying at home.

“The power supply has been an issue. We had one week long power outage in my area at Olayemi street, off Nnobi. Even after it was resolved, power is given once in a while, yet government want us to remain at home,” she lamented.

An SS 2 student, Maryam Balarabe also lamented epileptic power supply at Cement area, saying, for over four days now, she has not been able to watch television or listen to radio for the daily lesson programmes for senior secondary school students in Lagos state.

She appealed to government to make power supply a priority now that people have been asked to stay home.

Housewives on their part are also complaining over the rise in prices of food stuff since the lockdown began.

“Garri that used to be N1,000 per paint rubber is now N1,300; Titus fish which was N1,000 per kilo is now N1,300. Also, beans has increased from N900 to N1,200 per paint rubber,” Mrs Abdulsalam Remilekun said, saying, traders are exploiting the lockdown to indiscriminately increase prices of food items, leaving consumers stranded.


Police deploy more personnel to disperse crowd on highways

With 254 confirmed cases of COVID-19, Lagos State remains the epicentre of the pandemic with 130 cases as at 9:30pm on Tuesday April 7.

Meanwhile, the State Police Public Relations Officer, Bala Elkana, said the Command has received quite a lot of complaints of people violating the Federal and State Governments’ orders.

“We have also received pictures of people who have converted roads into football pitches and other functions which negate the social distancing order of government.

“The Command has taken note of those areas and more personnel have been deployed to those areas.

“The situation has actually improved, as in the next few days, we are sure that it will improve further. These activities violate the ‘sit-at-home’ order and also violate the social distancing order,” he added.

He also clarified that a Medical doctor and a police Inspector who were intercepted by a special Task force put in place by the state Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, were discovered to be hiding under the guise to run commercial bus town services.

Traders and buyers at Ile-Epo market during the lockdown in Lagos. April 06, 2020. Photo by: Benedict Uwalaka .
Traders and buyers at Ile-Epo market during the lockdown in Lagos. April 06, 2020. Photo by: Benedict Uwalaka .

Elkana said that the clarification became necessary following a statement credited to the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), which accused the police of restricting the movement of its members.

He said that the statement was completely false, misleading and should be disregarded by the general public.

He said that it is on record that the restriction of movement order that took effect from Monday, March 30, 2020 does not apply to hospitals and all related medical establishments as well as organizations in healthcare related manufacturing and distribution.

He said that commercial establishments such as: (a) food processing, distribution and retail companies; (b) petroleum distribution and retail entities; (c) power generation, transmission and distribution companies; and (d) private security companies are also exempted.

According to him, workers in telecommunication companies, broadcasters, print and electronic media staff who can prove they are unable to work from home are also exempted, while banks are allowed to render skeletal services.

He said that although these establishments are exempted, access will be restricted and monitored to avoid abuse.

Giving further clarifications, the police spokesman said: “The Commissioner of Police personally went round to monitor compliance across the State. Reports received from Area Commanders, Divisional Police Officers and Officers from the field shows a high level of compliance.

“Few cases recorded have to do with some individuals intercepted on the roads who claimed to fall under the categories of persons exempted but turned out to be false.

“Some could not provide any means of identification while others who actually belong to the professions mentioned were hiding under the cover to carry out their private businesses.

“An example is a medical doctor serving in another state but on annual leave in Lagos State, intercepted with three other passengers in his car going on private mission. A Police Inspector was also arrested with two passengers in his vehicle going on a private assignment in total violation of the restriction order.

“It is pertinent to state that the exemption given to certain categories of persons is not absolute. The order states that, ‘Although these establishments are exempted, access will be restricted and monitored’.

“To ensure that persons who are not on essential duties are restricted, the Command insists that apart from occupational ID Card, there must also be a document to prove that the person is on duty.

“The Command appreciates the daunting task ahead of all of us who are in the frontlines in curbing this pandemic, especially our medical and health workers. The relationship between the Police and other professional bodies especially the NMA remains cordial.”

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