The nation’s capital, Abuja, Lagos and Ogun States experienced worrisome chaotic scenes in banks, other institutions and transport terminals as people forgot everything about social distancing and hygiene on the first day of easing of the lockdown imposed on them following the outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Residents of two States and the Federal Capital Territory resumed normal activities on Monday following the commencement of the phased easing of the lockdown. five weeks after it was pronounced by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Declaring the chaotic scenes as dangerous, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Mr Boss Mustapha, warned that the danger of infection is not over, advising State governments and security agencies fully enforce the measures contained the guidelines released by the PTF.
Mustapha said at the daily briefing of the Taskforce on Monday that “the PTF has been monitoring the level of compliance with some of the measures and early observations showed 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 transact 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 in their premises.
“The PTF fully understands the desire of Nigerians to come out to continue their lives after five weeks of lockdown. States Governments and Security agencies have however, been advised to enforce the measures rigidly and violators will be prosecuted. Let me remind you, once more, that this easing up is in phases and those who are permitted to open have clearly been defined. Our admonition to Nigerians is that it is still desirable to stay at home if there is no compelling reason to go out and to comply with the measures always, whether at home or not.”
Mustapha said that the PTF has also received reports on the level of compliance with the nationwide ban on inter-State movement.
According to him, “The objective of the ban is to slow down the spread of virus across state boundaries. The determination of government to enforce this policy is not in doubt and as we progress, we believe that proper alignment with the directives of Mr. President would be pursued.”
The PTF chairman also expressed worry over the deportation of Almajiris from one state to the other, saying the Taskforce was going to engage the governors to halt it for now.
He said: “There has been very noticeable relocation of Almajiris from one State to another, up until yesterday (Sunday). With the ban on inter-State movement, the continuation of this exercise will not be in alignment with the guidelines issued. The PTF shall engage with the respective State Governments on how to achieve their objectives.”
Speaking on the easing of the lockdown, Mustpha reiterated the need for Nigerians to comply with the directives.
“As we journey into this new phase of measures, it is imperative that I re-iterate the importance of adherence to the guidelines more so that preliminary reports indicate that there is observable high level of breaches by the citizenry. I wish to at this point convey the assurances of the security forces, that the rights of Nigerians will be protected and their lives and property protected. Therefore, I passionately appeal to Nigerians to desist from attacking security personnel in the discharge of their duties and not recourse to taking the laws into their hands.”
The Director General of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, on his part admitted that more cases will be recorded with the easing of the lockdown.
He however said lessons learnt from the first day will help the Task Force enforce the guidelines.
He said: “Measures to ease the lockdown have kicked off today, but initial reports across the country are not too pleasing. We will have infections based on what happened today, no doubt. But what can we learn from it? How do we organise ourselves as a society?
PTF National Coordinator, Dr. Sani Aliyu said: “Easing of lockdown is in no way a license or permission to return to business as usual. It is absolutely necessary to continue to maintain all the measures that will protect us. We must all wear our masks, keep washing our hands, maintain physical distancing of 2m, and all the other directives issued for this period of gradual and phased easing of the lockdown.”