CORONAVIRUS: LAGOS, OTHERS TO USE FORCE TO COMPEL PARTIAL LOCKDOWN

as soldiers, airforce men, naval officers, police begin patrol

Chukwudi Akasike, Kamarudeen Ogundele, Success Nwogu, Mudiaga Affe and Tunde Ajaja

As part of efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease in the country, many state governments have set up task force, comprising soldiers, police and other paramilitary organisations to enforce the ban on gatherings.

The states include Lagos, Niger, Oyo, Rivers, Sokoto, Kaduna, Kano and Ekiti. Many of them had ordered the closure of schools, clubs, worship centres, markets and other public gatherings to prevent the spread of the virus.

The latest enforcement drive by the states came amid the rising spread of the disease. Since February 27 when the index case was recorded in Nigeria via a 44-year-old Italian, the number of cases as of Friday night had risen to 70, covering eight states and the Federal Capital Territory.

While one death has been recorded and three persons discharged so far, Lagos has recorded 44 confirmed cases, FCT, 14; Ogun, three; Ekiti, one; Oyo, three; Edo, one; Bauchi, two; Osun, one and one in Rivers State.

In Lagos State, the government had banned all religious and social gatherings of over 20 persons, while it also shut schools, clubs, event centres and markets, among others. The closure of open markets and stores, excluding sellers of food, medicines, medical equipment and other essential life-saving products, took effect from Thursday.

But due to poor compliance with the closure directives, there are strong indications that the Lagos State government will deploy security agents to the streets to ensure total compliance to contain the spread of the disease.

Multiple sources at a virtual meeting between Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and members of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Assembly during the week told one of our correspondents on Friday that the governor gave the hint during the meeting.

The members of NECA present included pharmaceutical and Fast-Moving Consumer Goods companies, including Nestle, Unilever, Nigeria Breweries, Promasidor, Flour Mills, Honeywell Flour Mills and Cadbury.

One of the sources quoted the governor as saying, “Lagos will not be on complete lockdown. The intention is to take non-essentials out of the street. There will be increased military presence comprising army, police, navy, air force and other paramilitary organisations on the road as from tomorrow (Thursday) to ensure compliance.”

Meanwhile, a video had gone viral on Thursday where policemen attached to the Lagos State Task Force were seen vandalising people’s shops and goods as part of the enforcement of the directive.

But the governor said at the meeting that, “The security personnel will be well briefed to be cautious with citizens to avoid untoward incidents.”

Another source at the meeting also quoted Sanwo-Olu as saying, “FMCGs are essential goods classified as daily need products, foods and drugs, beverages, health and hygiene products, medicaments, etc. Employees of these companies must carry their identity cards to and from work to ensure easy identification and smooth passage.

“Electronics markets, shops, spare parts markets, clothes markets and all classified as non-essentials shall be closed down while all food markets shall remain open. The retail chains like Spar, Game, Shoprite etc., shall remain open daily. People should not engage in panic buying. Government will ensure that supplies are kept flowing.”

Soldiers, police, NSCDC deploy personnel in Ekiti

In Ekiti State, combined forces of security agents, including soldiers, police and operatives of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence.

Corps, have been deployed in the Ado-Ekiti, the state capital to ensure Governor Kayode Fayemi’s Executive Order and directive on the closure of markets and shops to curb the spread of the virus.

As of the time of filing this report, the task force had already taken over Atikankan, Irona, Okeyinmi, Ijigbo and the Oja Oba Market areas to enforce the order, a step which compelled traders violating the orders to run for safety.

The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr Sunday Abutu, said the security agencies owed it a duty to support the government to ensure that every action taken was enforced to guarantee the safety of all citizens. He said the state would be inhabitable for criminals.

The Commandant of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps in the state, Solomon Iyamu, had said the corps would deploy 250 personnel across the state to enforce the directive.

In a statement by the command’s spokesperson, Tolulope Afolabi, the commandant said the personnel would work with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Humanitarian Task Force in the state health sector “for the purpose of surveillance, response and enforcement of safety rules and laws”.

The state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Wale Fapohunda, has also released an advisory to law enforcement agencies to clarify the legal framework for the effective prosecution of persons who violate the measures for the prevention of the spread of the virus in the state.

The advisory, dated March 23 and made available to journalists in Ado Ekiti, partly read, “Anyone who intentionally exposes another to COVID-19 be prosecuted for the offence of assault or murder as applicable” under Section 247 (b) of the Criminal Code Law, Cap C16, Laws of Ekiti State.

Fapohunda said gathering of more than 20 persons, overloading by commercial vehicles and motor bikes, violation of closure of schools, unlawful entrance into isolation centre and hindrance or obstruction to law enforcement agents “may be prosecuted for the offence under the provisions of sections 61, 202 and 203 of the Criminal Code Law, cap C16 Laws of Ekiti State 2012”.

Fayemi tests negative

Meanwhile, Governor Fayemi has tested negative to the virus. In a tweet on Friday, the governor tweeted, “I just received my test result from National Centre for Disease Control and it is negative. Thanks to all for your concern.

“This, however, calls for continued vigilance on the part of everyone. COVID-19 is real and we cannot afford to be complacent.”

The governor on Wednesday tweeted that he took the test having gone into self-isolation since Tuesday evening having met with two people who tested positive for the virus.

Obey movement restriction order, Niger police, NSCDC tell residents

The Niger State Police Command on Friday also asked the people of the state to obey the order restricting movements and gatherings of more than 20 people, saying the Force was set to implement the government directive.

Governor Abubakar Bello had imposed curfew on the state from 8am to 8pm daily as he also directed civil servants from levels one to 12, except those on essential services, to stay at home till further notice.

The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Wasiu Abiodun, said in a statement that the state police commissioner, Adamu Usman, had directed Area Commanders and Divisional Police Officers to apprehend and prosecute those that violate the orders.

He said, “Essential workers are allowed to continue their services. Commercial drivers, motorcycle and tricycle operators are warned to desist from overloading.

“The commissioner has also ordered the decongestion of police cells across the state as part of preventive measures. Members of the public are hereby advised to avoid social visit to the police stations and contact them through telephone numbers for information or general complaint.”

Offenders will be prosecuted – Oyo govt

In Oyo State, a joint security team, comprising the Nigeria Police Force; Federal Road Safety Corps; and the Oyo State Road Transport Management Authority, has begun the enforcement of the social distancing directive by the state government. It said those who flout the order on gatherings would be prosecuted.

This, according to the Executive Chairman of OYRTMA, Dr Akin Fagbemi, would curtail the spread of the virus in the state, adding that the team would ensure strict compliance at public parks and garages across the state, in line with Governor Seyi Makinde’s directives.

The state had suspended religious activities and banned gatherings with more than 30 persons, among other measures, while advising residents to maintain social distancing.

“The people had been warned that anyone caught flouting the recommendations would be arrested and made to face the wrath of the law,” he added.

The Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Dr Wasiu Olatunbosun, said aggressive public sensitisation were ongoing, adding that four isolation centres had been established with two ambulances to convey infected persons to isolation centre for treatment.

Kaduna police vow to deal with curfew violators

Also, Kaduna State Police Command has said it will deal with violators of the 24-hour-curfew imposed on the state by the government.

The Deputy Governor, Dr Hadiza Balarabe, in a broadcast to residents of the state on Thursday announced the curfew, stating that from the midnight of Thursday, all residents must stay at home and that no offices, businesses of any sort or places of worship are allowed to open.

The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mohammed Jalige, said in a statement on Friday that the command would commence compliance with immediate effect, saying the state Commissioner of Police, Umar Muri, had directed all policemen in the command to ensure that the directive was fully adhered to.

He said, “The Kaduna State Police Command in compliance with the directive on the enforcement of curfew/social distancing order wishes to inform the general public that it has commenced the enforcement as directed by the Kaduna State Government.”

Rivers NSCDC deploys 250-man squad to enforce order

The Rivers State Command of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps also said on Friday that it had raised a 250-man team to enforce compliance with the directives put in place by the state government.

The state commandant, Mr Muktar Lawal, said, “The command has deployed 250 Disaster Management personnel to the 23 local government areas of the state to relate intelligence gathered on the coronavirus pandemic and respond speedily to emergency situations where and when necessary.”

He urged the people of the state not to panic but remain calm. He added that the corps and the task force inaugurated by Governor Nyesom Wike were on red alert to ensure that the virus did not spread in the state.

Sokoto closes borders, constitutes task force

In Sokoto State, the government announced the closure of all routes into the state from midnight of Friday to April 10, as an initial two-week period.

The News Agency of Nigeria reported that Governor Aminu Tambuwal on Thursday explained that the measure did not include supply of food and essential medical commodities.

“The state government had constituted a task force team of experts under the leadership of the State Commissioner of Health, Dr Ali Inname, since March 19,” Tambuwal added.

Tambuwal said the terms of reference of the team were to advise government on all measures needed to be taken to prevent the entry and spread of the disease into the state.

Kano task force meets religious leaders

In its effort to prevent the spread of the virus, the recently inaugurated Task Force Committee in Kano State has met with the Ulamas, who are transmitters and interpreters of religious knowledge in Islam, on how to take proactive measures in the mosques.

The Deputy Governor Dr Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna, who chairs the committee, said even though there had not been any reported case of coronavirus in the state, it had become imperative for the state government under the leadership of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, to take measures on the risk posed by the pandemic.

The co-chair of the Task Force, Prof Abdurrazaq Garba Habib, asked residents of the state to keep the social distancing advised by the government.

Ondo arrests five persons for violating restriction order

The task force in the Ondo State says it has been going from street to street to ensure the restriction order by the government was obeyed.

The state government on Wednesday ordered the closure of markets and shops across the state while social, religious and political activities were also banned for 14 days.

The Chairman of the task force, Dr Doyin Odebowale, said out of the five persons arrested, two were pastors conducting christening, while the rest were shop-owners selling non-essential items.

Odebowale added, “The task force has been moving round day and night to enforce orders on closure of markets, night clubs, beer parlours, social gatherings and other preventive measures put in place by the state to contain the spread of the COVID-19.”

He said the suspects had not been handed over to the police but would be prosecuted later.

FCT threatens curfew, warns traders, worship places against violating orders

The Minister of State for the FCT, Dr Ramatu Aliyu, has threatened to impose curfew on the territory if residents and traders refuse to comply with restriction orders on gatherings and social distancing.

FCT Minister, Muhammad Bello, on Wednesday, announced the closure of all markets, except those selling essential items.

But speaking at Gwarinpa market on Friday during the fumigation of some areas, Aliyu expressed concerns that traders were flouting the rules.

There was however enforcement of the orders in Garki International Market, Area 1 Market and Wuse market on Friday.

Aliyu said, “If the situation continues like this, we will be forced to impose a curfew. That is why I came out myself to monitor and appeal to their conscience to vacate the market especially those not selling foodstuffs and other essential commodities.

“I have called the (FCT) Commissioner of Police myself to ensure that the enforcement team commence enforcement immediately.”