Fear seems to be replacing the joy of last week’s easing of the lockdown by President Muhammadu Buhari. State governments have swung into action to take responsibilities for protecting their citizens, writes ADEYINKA ADERIBIGBE
The joy that greeted President Muhammadu Buhari’s relaxation of the lockdown order last week, especially in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun states, is being replaced with fear and despair.
Several stakeholders, especially health workers, have taken a swipe at the order, coming at a time the nation’s coronavirus (COVID-19) figures released by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), appears to increasing, rather than flattening.
The president, in releasing the lockdown order, may have intended to tame the growing discontent and pockets of violence that had welcomed the extension on April 14, and has squarely placed the responsibility for public safety squarely in the hands of the people.
The Federal and the two-state governments as at weekend had unveiled guidelines, especially on movements of people, goods and services.
Other states that had also enforced some measures of the lockdown are also not left behind, as many states, are coming up with guidelines enforcing the movements.
The Federal Government, which had slammed an 8pm -7am nationwide curfew, also made it facemask mandatory, just as hand sanitisers have been made a compulsory accompaniment to their journey’s daily. This is to be followed by social distancing and abstaining from any crowded area.
Though the Ogun State Governor Prince Dapo Abiodun had extended the lockdown in the state to Friday, he has outlawed interstate movements putting in dilemma hordes of essential workers living in the state but works in Lagos.
The National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) has expressed their commitment to partnering the government to drive down the raging pandemic.
In a statement at the weekend, the union’s leadership said no driver would pick any commuter without a facemask.
Its National President Alhaji Tajudeen Olukunle Baruwa, said its state’s chairmen and other zonal officers had been directed to enforce a compliance nationwide, and that no member should be caught flouting the curfew order nationwide beginning from yesterday.
In Lagos, the state Chairman Alhaji Akinsanya (MC Oluomo), in compliance with the directive, have appealed to members to follow the state and Federal Government’s directive, which according to him, were laid out by the World Health organisation (WHO) and the (NCDC) for safety of lives of the people.
He assured that the state secretariat would operate at 60 percent capacity until further notice, and would open for business only between 9am to 3pm daily.
To ensure crowd control at the various parks, Akinsanya said only park chairmen and attendants should come out, while the operational timeline established by the government for buses in the state remains between 8am and 7pm daily.
He said any driver caught operating after this period would be sanctioned.
More importantly, however, Akinsanya directed that no driver should pick any passenger without facemask beginning from Monday.
If followed, it may seem 70 percent of the government’s anxiety on the safety of the 26 million people of the state might have been guaranteed.
Guidelines have been issued by a government, since Wednesday, last week on the removal of restriction of the lockdown by the Federal Government in Lagos State.
For a government that was almost choked by a pall of violence visited on the state by a cult of restless street boys and hoodlums, evolving a regime of regulations to promote public health may be the least of its problems.
At a meeting with critical stakeholders in the transportation industry last week, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu did not mince words that only voluntary compliance remains the golden key to safety, as the state enters another phase of uncertainty in its war against the unseen but deadly pandemic.
Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by the Commissioner for Transportation Dr Frederic Oladeinde and the Special Adviser to the governor on Transportation Oluwatoyin Fasanya’s guidelines, which spanned categories of land transportation (including rail) and water transportation, was meant to prevent community transmission, the deadly phase into which the state seems to have slumped.
For instance, the NCDC tally as at last Saturday barely 72 hours to the unlocking of the restrictions showed 220 new cases, increasing the national tally of the coronavirus to 2,388. Lagos, which has recorded a marginal drop, also witnessed a sharp rise to 66 new cases.
To prevent a further dip, the government said no commercial operations within the state shall be beyond 8pm daily starting from Monday, until further notice, while inter-state movement as directed by the Federal Government remains suspended.
Also motorcycle operation in the state has been suspended (to promote social distancing), while passengers and commuters are mandated to wear face mask at all times, sanitise their hands at all times with hand sanitisers, with alcohol base sanitiser, or wash their hands with soap under running water before and after each trip.
Operators and transport firms are expected to disinfect their vehicles, parks and garages regularly, under the supervision of the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, while operators are to have hand washing equipment at the entrance of their parks.
Motor parks must not be overcrowded with passengers and commercial activities, while passengers queuing up to board buses must abide by the NCDC recommendation of at least two metres (five feet distance), while operators are not allowed to overcrowd their vehicles, with small buses carrying only eight passengers, while large capacity buses must not carry more than 22 passengers.
All air-conditioning system in large buses must be switched off, and all of them must have temperature readers to test each passengers before boarding the bus, even as drivers and conductors are mandated to wear personal protective equipment, such as facemask and hand glove while in transit and dispose of non-reuseable ones.
For the state’s waste management agency must dispose waste at parks and garages, while passengers are mandated to report complaints about arbitrary fare hikes at this period to the ministry of transportation.
Oladeinde urged operators to disinfect waste vehicles regularly while those in the infectious waste disposal business must wear appropriate protective gears, which must be disposed immediately, while the drivers, and other personnel involved must not be allowed to have contact with family members and members of the public within until they have been declared fit.
Trucks and logistics firms were urged to ensure that their drivers and assistants use face masks and sanitisers while those carrying agriculture produce in and out of the state must not carry more than seven passengers. The vehicles must be disinfected before gaining access into the state borders and when leaving.
The government also had laws for mechanic village operations. Not only was none allowed to operate beyond 3pm from 9am, they must provide temperature readers (thermometer) to check staff members and visitors, as well as install running water facility in their garages and parks. All parks must be kept clean and abandoned vehicles in all parks must be evacuated within a week.
They must also avoid over-crowding and ensure social distancing within their premises, even as the mechanics and technicians are enjoined to use face masks and hand gloves, while visitors must use hand sanitisers anytime they visits or when leaving the mechanic yards.
The commissioner spelt out some dos and don’ts for water transport operators, stating that until further notice, it is illegal to operate any water vessel beyond 6pm in the state.
In addition to the mandatory wearing of life jackets, both operators and passengers must wear facemasks, use sanitisers and wash their hands regularly with soap under running water to be provided by the boat operators.
He said the government would sanction overcrowding of passengers at terminals while social distancing must be observed either while queuing or even within the ferries/boats.
“No operator is allowed to overcrowd/load their vessels at this point in time and water buses must, like their land alternatives operate at 60 percent capacity,” Oladeinde said.
The commissioner urged passengers to report any operator that does not comply with the guidelines to the Lagos State Water Authority (LASWA), or the monitoring officer, with details of the boat identity, the terminal, time of incident.
From the government, the message is clear: anyone who could work from home should avoid hitting the road in the guise of the locked down relaxation.
That is why a regime of phased resumption is encouraged by firms while a 60 percent staff capacity is permitted as the limit for anyone that needs to kick start operations.