- It’s tasking to wear a face mask’
“On my way to Ikeja with my friend, we were stopped by an official of the Lagos State Transport Management (LASTMA). The offence was that the person with me wasn’t wearing a mask. We tried to tell him that my friend had his face mask with him but was uncomfortable wearing it and had to remove it. Even though he saw the face mask with him, he insisted on arresting us. It took much plea from our side before we were allowed to move. Are they supposed to arrest or just tell everyone to use the mask?” Olatunji Sulaiman told asked.
Blessing Michael, a Kabusa, Abuja resident, said she always moved with a nose mask but only wears it when asked to, especially at entrances to malls, offices, and taxis.
“I can’t wear it for too long because the back of my ears hurts at night,” she said.
These are some of the scenarios in public places against the order/measures given by the Federal Government last week as means of combating coronavirus pandemic in the coluntry.
Findings by Daily Trust Saturday revealed that most residents and workers have defied the safety measures/guidelines by the Federal Government for the gradual easing of the lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The guidelines, signed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and chairman of the Presidential Committee on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, recommended the mandatory use of the non-medical face mask/covering for all persons while in public spaces. But findings show that most people still walk in the streets without face masks.
“People’s disregard for the dangers of coronavirus is alarming. You can see several people here without nose masks and even shaking themselves. My husband also called a local nail cutter to manicure his nails. If I had not stopped him, he would have manicured his nails,” Mrs Janet Okafor, an Abuja resident said.
In Abuja, although police officers and other security agents have been enforcing compliance of the directives, some residents are still not comfortable with it.
At the GSM Village, Wuse, Abuja, although the shops were locked, technicians gathered at a garden beside the village attending to customers, with total disregard for social and physical distancing, as well as the use of face masks.
One of the technicians, Onyeka Andrew, said they had to find a way to reopen due to hardship. “The police were here yesterday (Thursday) and chased everybody away; but the moment they left, we returned. This place was filled up yesterday, but not everybody returned today, especially those that are afraid,” he said.
Andrew, who resides in Karmo, was wearing a small mask that barely covered his nose and mouth. He said he had been at home for too long without money, so he needed to do something to make ends meet.
In the Federal Capital Territory, banks open between 8am and 2pm, but are usually filled with customers, who defy the social distance rule.
Joseph Bamigboye said he spent two days in a bank before he could make transaction.
“When I got to a bank at Garki on Monday by 8am, I was told they would open by 9am. I went home to return by 12 noon, but was told they were supposed to close by 2pm but because of the crowd already admitted into their premises, they could not attend to customers anymore.
“On Tuesday, I got to the same bank at 8:30am, I was told to write my name on a sheet of paper and to memorise my serial number, 110. I left for another bank in Lagos Street and was given a serial number 108. I could not go to the office because the transaction was very important. I got home at 3pm,” he said.
He said the banks complied with government directives on social distancing and face masks only within their premises while they left residents clustered at their gates, some without face masks.
In Lagos, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu had directed banks and other financial institutions in the state to open their branches and offer full services to the general public. He urged them to ensure regular cleaning and decontamination of their various Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and that a two-meter distancing measure is maintained.
This was, however, not the situation at most ATM posts in the state. Our correspondents observed a long queue with no observance of social distancing, even though, majority of the people wore face masks. The large crowds at banks, market places and ATM posts flouted the order of no mass gathering of more than 20 people outside a workplace.
Recounting his experience on transportation after the lockdown was eased, Mr Oladimeji Rasheed, an entrepreneur who lives in Ejigbo and works in Mushin said, “I walked eight kilometres from Mushin to Ejigbo. Due to the curfew, a lot of commercial vehicles were off the road, so there were few ones and so many passengers. Another thing is that the transport fare is not encouraging. Sources of income have not increased, yet, the money spent on transport has increased because buses and tricycles do not carry many people anymore.”
Our correspondent observed that heavy traffic has returned to Lagos as many residents now use their vehicles in a bid to observe the social distancing rule.
In compliance with the directive of the government, many Lagos residents now use face mask. However, most of those who use it either hang it below their chins or noses. Only a few use it; and many do not use it at all.
In Ogun State, residents also defy safety measures on prevention of coronavirus. Our correspondent who visited major markets, commercial banks and other public places in Abeokuta, observed total lack of adherence to social distancing among customers and traders.
However, there was partial adherence to the mandatory use of facial masks among residents, commuters and transporters.
Although Ogun State announced that its phased gradual ease of lockdown would take effect from Monday, May 10, the state government, however, allowed operations of banks, markets and other public places on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. During the week, residents who thronged markets, banks and other public places failed to adhere to the measures.
An electrician, Abiodun Mubashiru said, “Face mask has not changed anything. We have read all manners of report on the social media, that it is dangerous to even use a face mask for a long time. So, I must confess to you that I only use it when I am at crowded places.
“More so, it is not convenient, but we have to abide by government’s rules and regulations to prevent the virus.’’
While admitting that adherence to physical distancing has been difficult he said, “On physical distancing, I still shake hands, but it is just minimal.’’
In Lagos, commercial banks, motor parks and shopping malls were filled to capacity in what seemed like a rush to catch up with the lost weeks.
Our correspondents who monitored the situation around many parts of Lagos State observed that all the major commercial banks recorded huge numbers of customers. Though all the banks closed at 3pm, crowd control was a major challenge as many people struggled to gain entrance at once, thereby defeating the social distance order. Security personnel at branches of commercial banks at Ojodu, Allen, Alausa, Oba Akran had hectic moments controlling the surging crowd.
However, it was observed that most of the Yellow Buses carried three passengers on a roll instead of the normal four in order to respect the social distancing regulation.
The chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Alhaji Musiliu Akinsanya, had earlier directed motorists in the state not to pick passengers without nose masks.
Also, Mr. Fola Tinubu, the managing director of Primero Transport Limited, operators of the BRT buses, said only 20 passengers would be carried in each of the buses with over 70-passenger capacity. The decision is to ensure the enforcement of the social distancing measures in commercial vehicles.
Across bus stops and roads in Abuja, it was observed that transporters flouted government’s transportation guidelines. They still take six passengers, two at the front and four at the rear seat, while Sport Utility Vans took more than 14 passengers.
A mechanic who resides at Nyanya, Abuja, Saddam Ibrahim, said the ease of the lockdown had helped them to return to their businesses, but lamented that traffic gridlock around Nyanya and Karu bridge had intensified.
He said, “The people are hugely complying with the use of face masks. Even bikers are complying with the face mask order, but social distancing is not mostly observed. I have gone to banks and met many people there without observing social distancing.”
At a popular shopping mall in Ikeja, Lagos, our correspondent observed that visitors were compelled to wash their hands before gaining access to the hall while temperature check was equally carried out. Commercial drivers, conductors and passengers also made use of their face masks.
However, residents who spoke with Daily Trust Saturday expressed mixed feelings about how the measures have affected their lives.
On her part, Miss Seun Adeleke said, “I must be honest with you, the face mask has changed my life. I am not used to it. But now, I have to use it since it is mandatory. Most times, it generates heat and leads to difficulty in breathing. I have to adjust it intermittently to feel comfortable.’’
She equally spoke on how the lockdown had made her look at other options of financial independence.
“It was frustrating because I was owed a backlog of salaries at my place of work. I used the lockdown period to restrategise and plan on how to set up a small business so that I can be financially independent,” she added.
The Ogun police command noted that a number of residents had demonstrated “flagrant disobedience’’ to the directive on compulsory use of face masks, physical distancing, as well as number of passengers by transporters.
To this end, the spokesperson of the command, Abimbola Oyeyemi in a statement, said operatives would go after defaulters.
Oyeyemi quoted the commissioner of police, Kenneth Ebrimson to have appealed to residents to adhere strictly to the measures, saying, “Anybody caught moving around without a face mask will be apprehended and dealt with in accordance with the law.
“The command also observed that commercial vehicles and motorcycles were still in the habit of overloading their vehicles with passengers, thereby disobeying the directive on social/physical distancing
“The command has also directed its personnel across the state to henceforth arrest any vehicle or motorcycle that is caught carrying more than the required passengers, while such vehicles or motorcycles will be impounded and the driver/rider will be prosecuted.”
Meanwhile, the state command of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) launched a special operation to ensure social/physical distancing during banking hours.
The state commandant, Alhaji Hammed Abodunrin, directed the Disaster Management and Technical Department of the organisation to ensure that a professional demarcation of bank premises be immediately done in tandem with government’s directives.
Another aspect of the order that many are disobeying is the ban on all interstate travels. The order had banned all interstate travels except for essential ones and services, such as transportation of agricultural produce, petroleum products, relief items, goods, commodities related to the COVID-19 response and persons on essential duty. But it was observed that people still beat this order by paying their way through security operatives manning state borders.
On Thursday, the SGF lamented reports that security operatives were compromising the enforcement of the ban on interstate travels. Though commending their efforts, he urged the various commands of the security agencies to enhance their monitoring machinery to ensure that the virus is halted and prevent their good name from being tarnished. He also implored Nigerians to alert the security agencies whenever they witness the violation of these guidelines.
Findings by Daily Trust Saturday, however, revealed that the guidelines are not observed in market areas as there is no controlled access during designated market days. During such days, various markets are always filled to capacity while economic activities go on. Also, very few private and public institutions comply with the mandatory temperature checks at public spaces.
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