COVID-19: Why FG’s stay-at-home, social distancing directives receive poor compliance

...Army, police yet to begin full implementation

In some parts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja and some other states, many long-suffering Nigerians could be said to have exhibited the mannerism of the four lepers at the gate of Samaria, who felt that there was no significant difference between death and the type of life they were living.

They said: “If we say, we will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there: and if we sit still here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die.”

Despite the stay-at-home and social distancing directives issued by the Federal Government as preventive measures against the spread of the dreaded coronavirus, there is lack of adherence due particularly to the fact that many poor Nigerians still depend on daily income to fend for themselves and families.

This is just as the Nigerian Army, the Police and other security agencies are yet to commence full implementation of the government order.

While the Army said it was on standby to ensure full implementation of the government directive when the coronavirus situation gets worsened in the country, the police have simply stated that they were set to start enforcement.

Asides, lack of proper awareness on the preventive measures by government which is making it difficult for many to believe the coronavirus pandemic is real is also attributed to why the directives are being flouted.

Investigations have shown that residents of Abuja and some neighbouring states are freely going about their normal businesses.

FCT Minister, Muhammad Bello had directed that offices should be shutdown especially for workers on grade levels 0-12 while shops in the markets and neighbourhood centres in the territory should also be shut down to traders except those who sell essential commodities such as food and medicine, among others.

While commercial activities are still thriving in markets in the FCT, buying and selling are also not disrupted. Commuting of passengers by commercial motorists is going on unhindered despite the stay-at-home order.

Many residents have explained that their inability to adhere to the government directive is due largely to the fact that they depend on daily income to survive, and must therefore, go out every day to source for a living.

Some of the residents who spoke to BBSUNDAY posited that they were made to believe COVID-19 is a hoax because, according to them, the virus was only infecting the rich.

On the spot assessment by BDSUNDAY in Kubwa, Garki, Wuse, Karu, Lokogoma, Gwarimpa, Nyanya and Bwari areas in the FCT shows that people have not taken serious measures to protect themselves.

For instance, it was observed that the weekly Nyanya Market last Wednesday, same with Karu were operational as scores of traders and buyers were moving on with businesses, same situation with other markets in the FCT.

Speaking in an interview, a trader at Karu Market, Mary Okeke said coronavirus was a sickness for the rich who live in Maitama, Asokoro, Wuse and Garki areas, and that it “has nothing to do with the poor masses in remote areas.” She further stated that she did not adhere to the government directives in order to source for a living.

“To be honest with you, if I don’t come to market, how will I eat, buy soap or provide the needs of my family members? Even my husband has stopped working now and he is at home. They should not think of closing the market here. They should go to big markets inside town,” she said.

Abuh Usman, a driver whose vehicle was overloaded with two passengers in the front, at AYA roundabout located in Asokoro area, said the directive by government was not fair to them as it will greatly affect their income, especially now that there is economic crunch.

“If government is sincere, fuel price should be further reviewed downwards, less than the N125 pump price. If we don’t go out, how can we feed our family?” he said.

For Musa Mutiu, who was met in a popular garden in Garki, he decided not to stay-at-home, and to patronise the garden because there was no light at home. He said that he was “being affected by boredom since he did not have alternative source of power.”

When our correspondent visited Bwari in the FCT, the situation was not different. The market in the area was still very busy, just as relaxation spots.

“The market is still busy, people are not afraid, they are going about their normal activities and we have to sell. If we don’t open our shops, where do you expect people to go and buy food, do you think people should go hungry because of COVID-19?” Ucheoma Iruke, a trader asked.

Elizabeth Maiyaki, a petty trader said: “I am aware of the risks, but will not shut down my business to customers because the business is a major source of income to me and my family. I sanitise my hands often as directed by government.”

A visit to the popular Lokogoma area of FCT, our correspondent found that there was negligence on the part of people over the directive. There was no implementation of the government directive.

A chat with a resident, Owolabi, shows that most of the traders lack the basic knowledge on how fast and deadly the coronavirus is. They blamed government for not embarking on aggressive enlightenment.

“Corona virus cannot come to us oh; it is for the rich people and those that have money to travel. There should be more awareness on the virus. We do not know the government directives you are talking about,” Owolabi said.

Meanwhile, in Taraba State, despite the state government’s directive by Governor Darius Ishaku that members of the public should maintain social distancing and avoid going to drinking spots beyond 7pm, the order seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

Our correspondent gathered that people were still seen in droves when he visited ATC and road block areas of Jalingo, the state capital.

A resident who simply gave her name as Jumai, asked our correspondent: “I sell goods to take care of my family, so if I stay at home, who will provide food for my family?”

Hassan Sanisu said: “I asked my wife and children to stay at home and I came to buy food stuff for them. The government should provide means of taking care of families because hunger seems to be more deadly than cornavirus.”

When contacted on why the Army has not commenced full implementation of the government directive, Sagir Musa, director of Army Public Relations said: “It has only been directed by the Federal Government to be prepared for possible call out, if the pandemic worsens in the country.”

Efforts to reach Force PRO, Frank Mba via telephone failed as he did not pick his calls and had neither responded to a text message sent to his mobile line.

However, the FCT Police Command PRO, Anjuguri Manza, who spoke to BDSUNDAY said: “The police are working with the office of the FCT Minister and they have started implementation of the IGP directive on stay-at-home especially by stopping people from gathering in places like pubs, other places that are not supposed to be in operation.”

Meanwhile, as regards power distribution and supply, our correspondent spoke with Oyebode Fadipe, spokesperson for Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), who confirmed unavailability of electricity in some parts of the city as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. He however, encouraged people to make use of their social media contacts to reach them (AEDC) since they cannot maintain physical office now.


Solomon Ayado, Harrison Edeh, James Kwen, Godsgift Onyedinefu, Cynthia Egboboh (Abuja) and Nathaniel Gbaorun (Jalingo)

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