Coronavirus lockdown: Lagos, Rivers, six others to use force to ensure compliance
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”. Punch