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Nigerians stranded as states close doors over coronavirus

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An officer of Ogun State Road Safety Command tries to block the expressway to prevent a truck driving into Lagos, at the Ojodu-Berger border between Lagos and Ogun States, on March 31, 2020, following the lockdown by the authorities to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. – Lagos was deserted on March 31, 2020, after Nigeria locked down its economic hub and shuttered its capital Abuja, in the continent’s latest effort to brake the juggernaut of COVID-19 coronavirus. Businesses were closed, markets abandoned and streets empty as the usually chaotic megacity of 20 million, along with the capital Abuja, shuddered to a halt on the first full day of a two-week shutdown. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Thousands of Nigerians have been left cut off from homes and businesses as states across Africa’s most populous nation have shut their borders to halt the spread of coronavirus.

Central Benue on Wednesday became the latest of Nigeria’s 36 states to ban all movement in and out, meaning swathes of the country have become impassable.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday ordered a total lockdown in largest city Lagos and the capital Abuja.

But a string of regional governors around the country have taken matters into their own hands and unilaterally ordered the closure of their state borders.

READ ALSO: Global COVID-19 cases could hit 1 million in few days ― WHO

The governors — powerful players in Nigeria’s federal system — insist the strict measures are needed to contain the disease as Nigeria has so far registered 151 confirmed cases and two deaths.

But the moves have sown confusion and left many stranded.

Thousands have crowded on a bridge across the river Niger trying to cross between Delta and Anambra states in the oil-rich south of the country.

Emeka Okwudile lives on one side of the river but owns a shop in a market in a town on the other side.

“We have no option than to either adhere to the lockdown or cross the river Niger using canoes to access our shops,” he told AFP.

Adewale Timiyin was travelling from his home in Lagos out to the east of the country when the barriers went up.

He said he had bribed a police officer to get by one checkpoint but there was now no way to proceed.

“We have to stay with a cousin pending when the lockdown will elapse,” he said.

VANGUARD

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