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COVID-19: Looming Danger As FCT Residents Defy Social Distancing Order

The federal government has taken initial steps to encourage social distancing as it eases down the lockdown order. But, there has been concern from Nigerians living in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, that if social distancing is not maintained in public spaces, there would be further spread of the novel coronavirus.

Acknowledging that extreme social distancing is pretty much the exclusive intervention available to help individuals stay healthy, and to break the chain of transmission giving more vulnerable populations a fighting chance of surviving this pandemic. However, despite the appeal by health authorities for Nigerians to maintain social distancing as a measure of containing the rapid spread of coronavirus, many are yet to comply with the directives. The World Health Organisation (WHO) also advised that one of the safeguards against the virus at the moment is that people “stay at home” and “maintain social distancing”.

Some people have attributed their hustling and not complying with the rules to ‘hunger’ while some said both lockdown and social distancing were meant’ for the poor in Nigeria and not the rich. A medical practitioner, Christiana Jeremiah, said that the violation of the guidelines for the relaxation of the lockdown is tantamount to increasing the number of coronavirus cases because people with the virus would interact with other people that are yet to be infected in the society. Jeremiah said the easing of the lockdown was too quick, saying it would have been better if the government had conducted reasonable tests for Nigerians in the lockdown states, during the lockdown. According to her, “In my opinion, the easing of the lockdown was too quick.

Although people were suffering, it would have been better if the government had conducted reasonable tests for Nigerians during the lockdown and be sure that the spread of the virus has reduced drastically before easing it. ‘’That was what countries easing their lockdown had done before going ahead to do it, but the case of Nigeria is different. It was when the cases were increasing that was when the government decided to ease the lockdown, which is very dangerous to us, because, nobody is ready to observe the guidelines to protect their lives.

“So, the situation that we are in Nigeria where people are failing to comply with the social distancing instruction, is very dangerous to everyone, because nobody knows who has contracted the deadly virus and that would definitely promote the widespread of it. “My worries now are for the people living in rural communities, who seem not to know the danger of violating the rules of the government to control the spread of the virus. If the government can do something to enforce the social distancing rules, it will be better for all of us, because the violation of the guideline is like a time bomb waiting to explode.”

A hairdresser in Life Camp, Mama Odey, said her family is hungry and a total lockdown cannot solve the issue. “It is not possible for me and my husband to sit at home with three children; the government did not make any provision for us so how do we eat if we do not work?” Pastor Mathew Illiya of Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) said that the easing of the lockdown was too early because the government has not done enough testing of Nigerians before easing the lockdown. He said that if care is not taken, the spread of the virus would overwhelm the government.

According to Illiya, most Nigerians still do not believe that the virus exists, that is why they do not care about the social distancing and even using of face mask instructions, that if the government had done enough testing before easing the lockdown, it would have been better. “Imagine the way people trooped to markets and banks on Monday, May 4, when the lockdown was relaxed, you will wonder if these were the same people that stayed indoors for five weeks to stay safe. “If this disobedience to social distancing continues, the rate at which the virus will spread will be too much for the government to control.

Most Nigerians are acting as if they do not care about their lives, that is why they are living it the way they like, not minding the danger of the virus. “We always pray that God should protect us from evil, but when we fail to do what is right, I do not see how God will protect us. This virus is real and we should not allow it to come to us before we believe that it is real. We should try to obey the guidelines of easing of the lockdown for our good,” he said. Mr Chibuzo Daniel said the major disease facing the country is hunger and poverty, not coronavirus, saying it is not for us in fact, the effect of lockdown has aggravated hunger in our home.

Similarly, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) youth taskforce on COVID-19 has urged the federal government to lockdown Abuja again to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus. Comrade Ango Abdullah Suleiman, chairman of the Taskforce, made the demand in Abuja. He said his demand was based on the number of people dying while infectious cases had been on the increase as well as getting worse on a daily basis.

Suleiman said based on his observation, it had become obligatory for the government to do the best for the people, not minding the measures earlier put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Suleiman said he wondered if those happy about the ease of the measures would not rescind their stand and request the government to the status quo on the measures. “The same people demanding for the ease of lockdown may come back to criticize and condemn the action when things go wrong, therefore the only option is doing whatever is best for the people,” he said.

He noted that the law enforcement agencies in Abuja, were becoming overwhelmed and gradually losing control of the people as a result of the lifting of lockdown which might lead to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the territory. The chairman expressed the fear that if urgent steps and majors were not imposed to regulate movement in the city, to curtail the virus spread, the aim of arresting the disease might be a mirage.

The youth leader emphasized that even though the demand for the ease of lockdown was loud and overwhelming, it was never a good decision, considering the influx of people into the city. He cited massive gathering in banks and checkpoints as well as public disobedience in observing safety measures to buttress his point. He said that the repercussion of the early lifting of the lockdown around the world were lessons to learn “as our peculiarity can never be excused for our carelessness.”

Contributing, the spokesperson of FCT Natives, Comrade Inusa Yusuf, called on banks to open all their branches locked up during the lockdown, instead of opening few branches, adding the development had Queues in front of a bank in Abuja as people defy social distancing. Bello encouraged public gathering and discourage social distancing and capable of networking the virus. He commended the minister of State FCT, Dr Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, for ensuring that the vulnerable residents of the FCT benefit from the palliative programme. The image maker called for immediate commencement of the next phase of the programme to capture more beneficiaries who were in dire need of such palliative, adding that FCT minister should not be carried away by the critics of the palliative programme.

Yusuf said that the minister had ensured the transparent and smooth implementation of the palliative by her physical presence in the field throughout the palliative programme. In a related development, executive chairman of the Abuja Municipal Area Council, Hon Abdullahi Candido, hailed AMAC residents for so far being the most compliant in the whole of the FCT and appealed to them to key into government policy because “it is all about our safety.”

“In the past five weeks or so, AMAC residents have respected the order and stayed at home, I, therefore, appeal to them to observe physical distancing, use face masks and hand sanitizers as they come and let them avoid crowded areas. “But we must be very   careful to take all precautionary measures to guard against this pandemic because general life is for those who live. Since we are from all communities they may be target communities. In most rural homes in Nigeria today it is hard to tell who is infected and who is not.

However, it is expected of us to talk to people to maintain safety measures as outlined by NCDC and the government has been living up to its responsibilities, particularly the FCTA. They have sensitised us enough, unfortunately, the people are not listening, he stated, adding for collective prayers to God for protection. “On the part of this area council, we will keep to necessary precautionary measures, including hygiene, and we will make sure that our entrance remains strict, allowing entrance into our secretariat only to staff on grade levels 14 and above, and we will not entertain visitors.” A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and leader of Kpaduma communities in Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Hon Bala Iyah, expressed fears that the noncompliance to social distancing might backfire on rural communities where there are more populations. Iyah appealed to the government to set up modalities on how to ensure compliance of social distancing, if it is possible.

That as the government is enforcing the use of face masks by residents, something should be done to ensure that social distancing laws are also enforced. “One thing we have observed is that most Nigerians want to be forced before they comply with instructions from the government. I do not see reasons why anybody should be forced to stay safe. This pandemic is real, so we all should try to do what we can to ensure that we join the government in the fight to control the spread. “I will like to appeal to residents of AMAC, mostly those in the rural communities to comply with the government lockdown order, by staying at home if they do not have important things to do outside. They should also avoid gathering in groups and maintain social distancing and hand washing advice from the Federal Ministry of Health. “We should not see the instructions as a punishment to us but as a means of protecting all of us from the deadly virus. Observing the guidelines of the partial lockdown is for our benefit, it is to stop the spread of the virus.

The virus has no treatment; the only treatment is for us to obey the government. “I am also appealing to our people in our rural communities not to see the virus as a rich person’s sickness, because it is very deadly and has no boundary. It affects both the rich and the poor if they are not careful. We should keep on praying for Nigeria and our leaders, for God to continue to give them the wisdom and strength to manage this challenging situation so that our lives can go back to normal again,” he said.

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