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COVID-19: Travellers stranded as security agents enforce lock-down in Rivers, Delta, Ekiti, others

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Beyond COVID-19 pandemic•I tested negative for coronavirus – Dangote
•FG evacuates stranded NCDC staff from Congo Brazzaville
•FCT enforcement team arrests Pastor, shuts 16 churches, mega pharmacy

By Clifford Ndujihe, Festus Ahon, Victoria Ojeme, Joseph Erunke, Peter Duru, Rotimi Ojomoyela, Omeiza Ajayi & Shina Abubakar

LAGOS—It was wailing and gnashing of teeth for hordes of stranded travellers, yesterday, as many states began lock-down to contain the spread of the dreaded COVID-19 virus.

States which which undertook lock-down measures at the weekend were Delta, Benue, Ekiti, Osun, and Ogun.

States like Rivers, Kogi, Kwara, Edo, Imo, Cross River, Taraba, and Bayelsa had earlier announced lock-down of their borders.

This came on a day the Federal Government evacuated stranded staff of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, in the Republic of Congo; while billionaire businessman, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, said he has tested negative for coronavirus.

Stranded travellers lament in Asaba, Onitsha

Following the enforcement order on border closure in Delta State, hundreds of travellers in and out of the state were stranded at the Asaba and Onitsha ends of the River Niger bridge.

Similarly, commuters and travellers were reportedly barred at Agbor, Koko junction and Patani borders from entering or leaving the state.

Heavy duty trucks, buses and cars stretched over two kilometres on the busy Onitsha-Benin expressway as they were stopped by security agents from entering or leaving the state.

Some of the commuters pleaded ignorance of the border closure order by the state government, which took effect at 6:00am yesterday.

Some of the travellers who spoke to newsmen expressed sadness that they could not continue their journey onward or backward.

Meanwhile, some of the travellers attempted to cross the River Niger using boats stationed under the bridge.

Security personnel who were stationed at the borders had a hectic time enforcing the order.

At about 8:15am, the Onitsha bridge head border was thrown open for commuters and travellers as  Anambra State Commissioner of Police, perhaps returning from a journey got to the point.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 pandemic: Breaking the cycle of transmission

A security personnel, who pleaded anonymity, said one of the reasons they relaxed the order was to ease the weight on the Niger bridge, adding that the order would be enforced once the bridge was cleared.

Expressing his displeasure, Mr James Orji, a commercial transporter, said he was going to Lagos from Owerri, Imo State.

Fuming with anger, a woman who simply gave her name as Theresa, said she was molested by a soldier while trying to cross from Asaba to Onitsha.

She explained that she crossed to Asaba from Onitsha around 6am yesterday to buy garri, a national staple, using the footpath on the bridge.

Mr. Chukwuma Eze, also stranded at the Onitsha end of ther bridge told Vanguard at 5.24 pm: “The bridge was closed since 9 am by an Army man, Col. Ike. If they wanted to stop spread of coronavirus, I am afraid the disease don spread well today for here.’’

Fayemi shuts down Ekiti for 14 days, invokes 2004 Quarantine Act

In an attempt to contain the spread of Coronavirus in Ekiti State, Governor Kayode Fayemi, yesterday announced a total shut down the state. He imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew, closed all state borders and restricted all non-essential movement.

Fayemi, in a broadcast, said that the action became necessary in order to prevent spread of the virus.

Invoking Section 8 of the Quarantine Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), Fayemi said: “It is in urgent public interest that we must ensure strict compliance with all directives given to prevent community spreading of the disease.

“The purpose of this curfew is to impose restrictions on the movement of persons and goods within Ekiti State for an initial period of 14 days. This is in order to prevent the spread of Coronavirus in Ekiti State.

“Therefore, effective from 23H59 (11:59pm) on Monday, March 30, 2020 until 23H59 (11:59pm) on Monday, April 13, 2020, there shall be restriction of movement across the length and breadth of Ekiti State, with all our borders closed.

“That is a full and total shut down of Ekiti State, and a 12-hour dusk-to-dawn curfew in Ekiti State from 7:00pm-7:00 am. All Ekiti residents are hereby directed to stay at home.’’

He, however stated that the state has not recorded any additional case of confirmed coronavirus, while the only patient that tested positive is doing very well at the isolation centre, still without showing any symptoms, hoping that his repeat test will come back negative so he can be discharged soon.

Speaking further, Fayemi said: “While I acknowledge our resilient nature, incurable optimism and spiritual activism as a people, it is critical that we balance these with pragmatic and urgent actions that can ensure the safety of lives for our families and communities.

‘’Unlike any other infection, the COVID-19 strain of coronavirus is a type the world has never seen, so there is no verified cure or medication to manage the effects of an infection. The only proven means of defeating this lethal enemy of the human race is prevention. And these preventive steps must be taken individually and collectively for it to be effective.

‘’As you are aware, the state is under significant financial constraints, especially as a direct consequence of the impact of the Coronavirus on the global economy and the price of crude oil that has gone down considerably. So, we cannot afford a public health crisis.

“We are implementing the Quarantine Act to keep all Ekiti residents safe. So let me be clear. If you do not go home or stay home for at least fourteen (14) days as from Monday, 30 March, 2020, you could face serious fines or a prison term.

“During this period, movement between local governments is prohibited; movement between towns, villages and communities is also prohibited; every person shall be confined to the place where he or she ordinarily resides in Ekiti State.’’

Exempted from the restriction order, are those in essential services, who will be allowed to move around, particularly health workers, but must be duly designated with an identity card by the heads of their institutions.

Others are members of the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary; production, distribution and marketing of food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, medicine, paper and plastic packages.

Those also exempted are staff of electricity, water, telecommunications, e-commerce and digital service providers, members of security agencies assigned on lawful duties, staff of banks and similar financial institutions and staff of fuel stations.

“All businesses and other entities shall cease operations during this period except those involved in the provision of essential goods or services. Markets, retail shops and shopping malls must be closed, except where essential goods are sold and with strict hygienic conditions to prevent the exposure of persons to COVID-19.

“Religious gatherings e.g. worship and prayer services, vigils, house fellowships and NASFAT meetings; social gatherings e.g. funerals, weddings, family meetings and parties of any kind in night clubs, bars, beer joints; and political gatherings, e.g. rallies, congresses, ward meetings. All of these are prohibited activities under these regulations.

“Only gatherings in respect of funerals will be allowed but the attendance shall be limited to 20 persons with no night vigil or party.

“All boundaries of Ekiti State are closed during this period, except for transportation of fuel, food and drugs and other essential goods.

‘’All non-residents who arrive the state prior to, or after, the imposition of this restriction, and who remain in the state, must remain in their place of temporary residence in the state for the duration of the 14 days, as the case may be, and may be subjected to screening for COVID-19 and be quarantined or isolated if necessary.

“All commuter transport services including bus services, taxi services, motor bikes (Okada) and tricycle services (Keke), is prohibited; except those for purposes of rendering essential services, obtaining essential goods, seeking medical attention, funeral services and to receive payment of social grants or food: Provided that such vehicle carries not more than 50% of the licensed capacity and all directions in respect of hygienic conditions and the limitation of exposure of persons to COVID-19, are adhered to.

“Penalties for any person who contravenes these regulations shall be guilty of an offence and, on conviction, liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both such fine and imprisonment.

‘’Ekitikete, this administration is fully aware of the inconvenience these directives will have on our daily lives and livelihoods but it is the sacrifice we must all make to remain healthy and alive.

‘’To make this a little easier for us all, I hereby announce the following palliative measures, especially for our high risk and vulnerable citizens, includes the payment of March salaries since last Thursday, March 26, so that civil and public servants can stock up on food and essential items necessary for the stay-at-home period.

“I have directed that the Ekiti State Food Bank be reactivated immediately to provide food items to the poor and vulnerable families in our communities. The Task Force will announce the modalities as soon as the process is fully activated

“The state government will consider providing a stipend to our self-employed citizens whose daily income will be interrupted at this time as subsidy for their loss of income. I have directed the Commissioners of Finance and Budget to advise on the amount the state can afford in view of our dire financial constraints.

“I have also directed the Ministry of Health to begin the process of establishing a second isolation center in Ado Ekiti.

‘’We currently have a 10-bed isolation center but we must begin to increase our capacity up to 100 beds with necessary medical equipment required to manage suffering patients.

‘’We have also ordered more PPE for our medical personnel to protect them from infection while caring for the sick.’’

Osun locks down as Oyetola confirms second case

Following the confirmation of a second coronavirus case in Osun State, the state government has announced total lock-down with effect from Tuesday, March 31, 2020.

It also reaffirmed the commitment to shut down all land boundaries effective from midnight, Sunday, March 29, 2020.

Governor Adegboyega Oyetola, who disclosed this in a statewide broadcast yesterday, maintained that there would be no movement within the state during the shutdown, while those on essential duties such as health personnel, fire service, environmental officials, security personnel, power and water supply agencies, media and telecommunication officers would be on duty.

It was gathered that the second case contacted the disease after visiting a friend who returned from Japan, last week, in Lagos State.

Meanwhile, the governor described the decision to lock-down as imperative, in view of the devastating nature of the pandemic, adding that the first priority of any responsive and responsible government was to respond effectively to protect its citizens when an emergency occurred.

Oyetola expressed sadness over the latest incident, but maintained that the decision remained the alternative for the state to contain the spread of the disease.

He said: “Following a review of our current situation, we have in addition to the subsisting measures taken in the past one week, decided to shut down all our boundaries, effective from midnight Sunday, March 29, 2020. In addition, a complete lockdown of the state will come into effect from midnight, Tuesday, March 31, 2020

“We believe this is the way to go, if we must contain the spread of this virus. To this end, we urge citizens and residents to take advantage of the hours between now and Tuesday to stock up provisions that will last them two weeks in the first instance.

“During the lock-down, there will be no movement within the state. The closed boundaries also means there will be no inter-state movements. However, those on essential duties such as health personnel, fire service, environmental officials, security personnel, power and water supply agencies, media and telecommunication officers will be on duty. Also, pharmaceutical and medical outfits will be allowed to open.

“We have mandated and mobilised the state’s taskforce and security operatives to enforce measures to the letter. We, therefore, strongly advise our people to remain in their homes during the period of the lock-down.’’

Ogun shuts borders with neighbouring states, Benin Republic

In like manner, the Ogun State Government has announced closure of its borders with neighbouring states and the international border with the Republic of Benin.

Governor Dapo Abiodun’s Chief Press Secretary, Kunle Somorin, announced this in a statement, weekend.

Somorin revealed that the closure would be in effect from midnight of March 29, and remains in force for two weeks in the first instance.

“With this restriction order, movement in and out of the state is thus banned as a further measure to contain the coronavirus pandemic,” the statement read.

According to the governor’s aide, the state is constrained to effect border closure in order to stem and flatten the curve of the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, not only in the state but also in the country and in the West African sub-region.

“The position of Ogun State is peculiar. It not only shares an international border with the Republic of Benin, it does so with all other states in the South-West (except Ekiti), including Lagos State, which has understandably recorded the highest number of infections in the country largely because it hosts the busiest air and seaports and it is the nation’s economic capital.

Ortom imposes curfew; orders closure of land borders, markets in Benue

Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state also imposed a curfew on the state and ordered the closure of all land borders.

In a radio broadcast on Sunday in Makurdi, Ortom said the decision followed confirmation of a COVID-19 case in the state and the review of its earlier decisions on the matter.

He explained that the curfew which would take effect from Monday March 30 would ensure restriction of movements “from 7pm to 6am daily till further notice while all entry points into the state would be closed with effect from Wednesday April 1, 2020.”

The Governor hinted that government had so far released the sum of N76million for efforts at containing the virus in the state and appealed for support from individuals and corporate organizations.

Continuing he said: “Local Government Area, LGA, COVID-19 Action Committees will be inaugurated Monday to enforce the closure of the state’s borders.

“All public gatherings in the state have been suspended till further notice. This includes marriage ceremonies, community festivals, funerals and religious meetings including churches and mosques which should be limited to 30 participants.

“All markets in Benue State are closed with immediate effect. Only shops and commodity stalls shall remain open. I urge our traditional rulers, religious leaders, youths and political leaders to ensure strict compliance.

“All commercial vehicles traveling in and out of the state as well as those traveling from one LGA to the other within the state must submit the manifest of their passengers to the appropriate authorities.

“Tricycles or Keke Napep should not convey more than two passengers at a time. Township and mini buses should not convey more than seven passengers at a time.

“Commercial motorcycles also known as Okada should convey one person at a time and must wear face mask. Importantly, all commercial vehicles, motorcycle and tricycles must have hand sanitizers for the use of passengers.

“Night clubs are hereby closed till further notice. Bars and restaurants should render take-way services and must provide hand sanitizers, soap and water for customers’ use.”

I tested negative for coronavirus – Dangote

Meanwhile, billionaire businessman, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, says he has tested negative for coronavirus.

Africa’s richest man was thought to have been exposed to the virus after he came in contact with Mallam Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, who has tested positive.

In a tweet on Sunday, Dangote announced that he took the test as a global citizen and business leader.

He said he is leading a group of private sector leaders in supporting government efforts to tackle the disease.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly disrupted modern society, affecting our collective health and well-being. As a global citizen and business leader, I took the COVID-19 test and the result came back negative,” the tweet read.

“CACOVID (Coalition Against COVID-19) is an initiative that I am leading with other private sector leaders and our common goal is to support ongoing government initiatives with our resources in the fight against COVID-19. We are in this together and I am optimistic we will overcome.”

FCT enforcement team arrests pastor, shuts 16 churches, mega pharmacy

The enforcement team of the Federal Capital Territory FCT Administration, Abuja, has arrested the General Overseer of the Jesus Reigns Family Church in Apo, Pastor U.U Uden for violating control measures put in place to contain the spread of the Coronavirus.

Head of the team, Ikharo Attah, said the church was fully in session when the team arrived but had to wait for the pastor to conclude the worship before approaching him to explain his wrongs and thereafter arrested him.

According to Attah, “despite the presence of the team the cleric continued the service till the end while the team waited to avoid confrontation.

“He was immediately taken to the FCT Police Command at Garki and handed over to policemen on duty,” he said.

The team which also dispersed worshippers at the Christ Embassy church located at Jabi district of the FCT, was also at the Popular H-Medix Pharmacy in the Wuse II district of the FCT following complaints received at the FCT COVID-19 situation room that the pharmacy does not have shot-gun thermometers and required kits or items to ensure safety of customers and staff.

FG evacuates stranded NCDC staff from Congo Brazzaville

The Federal Government has successfully evacuated stranded staff of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, in the Republic of Congo.

The staff were said to have been drafted to the country on a training to expand their knowledge as regards management of coronavirus and for their prompt deployment.

They were undertaking the capacity building training with the World Health Organisation,WHO, in the country.

The medical team had been stranded following the closure of air and land borders by the host country to stop the spread of the disease in the country.

The government, it was gathered, deployed a special flight of the Nigerian Air Force to convey the public health officials back.

Commenting on the issue, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Congo, Mrs Deborah Iliya, hailed President Buhari for what she called “systemic, practical and sincere efforts he is taking to end the deadly Coronavirus (COVID19) crisis facing our dear nation.”

Vanguard

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