The visible poor compliance to the guidelines issued by both the Federal Government and the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) on the ease of Covid-19 is sending signals that there could be a surge in the number of cases of the killer virus in the nation’s capital.
According to Federal Government directives, the gradual easing of the over five weeks lockdown in the FCT which has a total of 278 confirmed cases of the dreaded Covid-19 pandemic began Monday with many residents trooping out of their residences for their hitherto normal routine.
Surprisingly, most of the residents came 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.
Some of the guidelines released by the FCTA at weekend ahead of ease of the lockdown said: “use of face masks by residents in all public places is mandatory and prohibition of commercial motorcycles within the FCC remain in force including Kubwa and Dutse Alhaji.
“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%”.
However, BusinessDay observed that in many parts of the FCT, particularly in adjoining towns to the City Centre, these guidelines were flouted as most transporters for instance were still conveying more than the approved number of passengers while long queues were seen at Banks without observing the safe distancing protocols of at least two meters and wearing face masks.
In the Kuje Area Council, for instance, people trouped out en mass, especially owners of small-scale businesses and daily paid workers without observing social distance and other protocols.
When BusinessDay visited Nyanya, a suburb of the FCT, many residents were out on Monday without observing the social distancing as has been advised by the authorities. Parks and market places were seen crowded with people including commuters scrambling to go to work crammed in vehicles while the multitude that trooped out in the area did not wear masks.
The residents of Zuba apparently resumed their commercial activities fully as the fruit market at the place was crowded with buyers, sellers and suppliers without observing social distance, just as it was seen at the Utako market.
Also, in Bwari Area Council, social distance was not being observed as there were clusters of people waiting outside banks with motor parks crowded.
It was the same situation in Lokogoma/Lugbe axis where residents were seen making efforts to return to their everyday activities with the roads filled with motorists and passengers heading to their places of work while hawkers at the road sides were displaying their items.
In another development, commercial transport operators who observed the rules on the number of passengers, hiked their fares by 100% as places that N100 is charged automatically went up to N200.
The fares were increased from N250 from Kuje to Berger bus stop and Federal Secretariat to N400, while the number of passengers were reduced to two at the back and one person in front, making a total of four persons in the taxis while the fare from Nyanya to Wuse jumped from N100 to N200.
When accosted, a carb operator, Musa Idris, said it is commercially unviable to reduce the number of persons as required by the regulations and charge the same amount
” It is commercially not possible to charge N250 as before, when they said we must reduce the number of passengers”.
Another motorist, John Bako, also said the increment was due to the directives on reduction of passengers in every taxi.
“We can only take 3 Passengers, one in front and two behind; so we can’t collect the usual price. Security men are on the way and they would not permit us to pass if we don’t maintain these directives”.
Meanwhile, Officers and men of the Nigerian Police in Kubwa were leading a serious enforcement of the clamping down on unmasked bike men popularly known as ‘okada’ in the town, with over 500 arrests already effected.
BusinessDay found that the bike men had mobilised themselves revolting against the clampdown of their counterparts who had been arrested.
Some of the okada riders were seen revolting, as they attempted throwing stones at police constables who controlled traffic at various junction of the city. This prompted a
spontaneous shooting to calm the chaos occasioned by the okada riders.
Also, Mobile courts stationed at strategic areas in the Federal capital Territory Abuja to try violators of safety guidelines on COVID-19 has resumed.
At the AYA terminus in the Asokoro Area of Abuja, it was observed that the Mobile court resumed trial of the offenders of the ease of lockdown rules.
Security operatives and law enforcement agents were seen intercepting vehicles and apprehending persons that violated the guidelines. The offenders were to be handed over for trial.
The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has described as premature, the easing of the lockdown, even in phases, by the Federal Government, and urged Nigeria to learn from Ghana, where the same action produced 100 percent increase in infection rate in just a week.
In a statement in Abuja at the weekend, President of the Association, Francis Faduyile, said as the incidence of Covid-19 cases hit the 2000th mark over the weekend, just seven days after hitting the 1000th mark, it figuratively tilted the epidemiological curve towards an upward spike.
James Kwen, Solomon Ayado, Innocent Odoh, Cynthia Egboboh & Gift Onyedinefu, Abuja