As the number of coronavirus cases keeps rising in Nigeria, the most affected states see more reason to stay at home and observe the lockdown initiative of the federal and state governments. The Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun States are at the center stage of the lockdown, due to the number of cases the states have recorded so far.
As at Thursday, there have been 288 cases and seven deaths in Nigeria, with Lagos having the highest number (158) and the FCT 54. These alarming numbers are emphasizing the need to keep social distance and see the lockdown order as a preventive measure.
However, people’s reaction to the stay-at-home order has been discouraging. A situation many believe is as a result of the rumors and conspiracy theories flying around. Many in Nigeria still believe that coronavirus is a hoax or that they have zero chances of being infected. In an opinion poll conducted by Vanguard on the reality of coronavirus on Facebook, about 40 percent of responders said it doesn’t exist.
Such belief is seen by the way people are breaking the social distance rule, especially in Lagos.
On Saturday, actress Funke Akindele Bello and her husband, Abdulrasheed Bello got caught in the act of disobedience of the social distance and it landed them in trouble. The Lagos State has limited social gatherings to 25 people only, a number believed to be not big enough to enable the spread of the virus. Mr. and Mrs. Bello had made a birthday that involved far more than that number of people, including popular music artist, Naira Marley.
Well, the law took its cause, and the couple was found guilty of social disobedience. What surprised many is the overwhelming number of fans who turned up in solidarity to the celebrities in court.
Early this week, heavy traffic jam was reported in Lekki-Epe expressway Lagos, amidst the lockdown order. The effrontery to break the rule appears to have stemmed from the lenience of authorities to enforce it. From the onset, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police (CP) Hakeem Odumosu had warned enforcement officers not to go hard on people moving around, and to allow petty businesses to continue. The relaxation of the enforcement seems to have triggered an avalanche of movement across Lagos State. But that is changing as law enforcement has commenced clampdown on the violators. Yet, Agege is running wild!
Tension started in the area over the weekend following attacks by suspected cultists who went from street-to-street robbing and raping innocent residents.
The attacks in Agege were spillover of last week’s assault on residents and traders at Abule Egba, Alagbado, Meiran, Alakuko, Ijoko and Sango, among others by armed gangs numbering over 200, that has left at least four people feared killed.
Pockets of robbery incidents were alleged to have taken place simultaneously at Olusanya Adenire, Pen Cinema, Oniwaya, Orile-Agege, Dopemu and Agbotikuyo on Sunday, as the hoodlums armed with guns, bottles and cutlasses dispossessed their victims of cash, food and other valuables
Over 78 persons were arrested and over 600 vehicles impounded as the governments intensified efforts to quell the spread of coronavirus. Among them are those who converged on major roads for sports activities.
The statement issued by Lagos State Police Command spokesman, Bala Elkana on Wednesday, disclosed that the suspects were charged to court where they were punished accordingly.
“The suspects were arrested for playing football on major streets and having group exercise in large numbers, thereby neglecting the principles of social distancing. The suspects were arraigned in Chief Magistrate Court Yaba on a one-count charge of violating the social distancing directives of Lagos State Government contrary to Regulation 8(1)(a) &(b) and 17(1) (i) of Lagos State Infectious Disease (Emergency Prevention) regulation 2020, an offense punishable under Section 58 Public Health Law Cap P16 laws of Lagos State, 2015.”
The statement added that “73 of the suspects pleaded guilty to the charge while three pleaded not guilty. The court ordered that all the suspects should be kept in government isolation centers for 14 days and thereafter serve one-month community service. The three suspects who pleaded not guilty will after observing the 14 days isolation, be brought to court for trial.”
On Thursday, police arrested 202 persons for the same offense. Elkana said “The suspects were arrested playing football on major streets and having group exercise in large numbers, which negates the principles of social distancing.”
The suspects were charged to court and fined N10,000 each after they pleaded guilty to violating the stay-at-home order. They were also sentenced to 14 days of community service.
It is hoped that the recent enforcement of the social distance rule in the states will help to force adamant people to stay at home. Though it is believed that apart from those gathering for sports activities and merrymaking, others have been forced out of their homes by hunger.
The palliatives of the governments have been described as ridicule and mockery of families who depend on their daily income to feed. It appears that many more people are going to get arrested if the lockdown goes beyond two weeks. Of course, we must ensure that the Agege thuggery does not scale across the nation.