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Lifting of ban on interstate travel: We’re sitting on a ticking time bomb — Nigerians

At the outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic in the country, the Federal Government adopted several measures to contain the spread of the virus which included the ban on interstate travel. Although there were some violations of the ban especially with the connivance of security personnel who saw it as an opportunity to make money, majority of the citizens were confined to their respective states for more than two months with the attendant disruptions to their businesses and social lives.

Last Monday however, the Federal Government announced the lifting of the ban on inter state travel which attracted mixed reactions from the citizens. While some heaved a sigh of relief, many expressed fears that with the lifting of the ban, there would be an upsurge in the infection that may lead to another lockdown.

RIVERS

By Egufe Yafugborhi

Ledum Mitee, lawyer and former President, Movement for Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) said, “The ban on interstate travels was not effective. It was not a secret that people have been traveling across state borders all this while. High profile people, ordinary people and even almajiris have been traveling. There’s no doubt that the lifting of restrictions has been driven more by economic imperatives than public health considerations. The lifting of restrictions would, in my view, definitely lead to some surge in transmission of the virus.”

ONDO

By Dayo Johnson Akure

Reacting to the lifting of the ban, a legal practitioner, Mr Banjo Ayenakin said, “although the initial ban on inter-state movements due to COVID-19 wasn’t absolutely effective; it went a long way to control the pandemic drastically. Many people obeyed the ban and the spread of the decease was at a low ebb. However, without sounding as an alarmist, I am strongly of the opinion that the lift on interstate ban will cause a surge in COVID 19 cases. This is because at the moment, the disease has assumed community spread and a little patience would have curtailed the spread. My advice to Nigerians is that they should be cautious, the disease is real and all the necessary precautions must be followed.

BENUE

By Peter Duru, Makurdi

The National President of Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools, ASUSS, Comrade Samuel Omaji in his reaction said, “We welcomed the ban on interstate travel when it was announced because at that time everybody was apprehensive but we discovered that it didn’t work out. People were still traveling from here to Lagos and all over the places. And now that it has been lifted, it’s now an all comers affairs. Considering the upsurge of the virus we should expect more. The question we should be asking ourselves is how many persons have been tested out of over 200 million people. There are so many persons who have the virus and nobody noticed them and now that the states are open to one another, you should also expect that more people will contact the virus because government has not put in place adequate procedures that would have guaranteed free movement of people without the infection.”

BAYELSA

By Samuel Oyadongha, Yenagoa

Joseph Ambakederimo, convener South South Reawakening Group, said: “Certainly, there’s going to be an upsurge and wide spread of infection. People hardly comply with the protocols to guide against the spread, the use of face mask is being abused, people now see it as an item of fashion instead of prevention of the virus. I see a situation where there might just be another round of total lock down.”

A resident of Yenagoa, Comrade Alagoa Morris in his submission said: “I am of the view that, even though there was interstate travel ban, money was still exchanging hands and no matter the sensitisation on the need for regular hand washing and use of alcohol based sanitizers, a greater percentage of Nigerians may not have been adhering to it. We noticed that even some of the enforcers of the lockdown were not obeying the safety measures as some were not wearing face masks and were making arrests without ascertaining if those arrested had contracted coronavirus. However, there should be proper monitoring of the situation”

ANAMBRA

By Vincent Ujumadu, Awka

In Anambra state, interstate commercial transport operators heaved a sigh of relief following the ease of the lockdown in the country, with many of them saying their families almost starved to death during the period. Some of them who spoke to Saturday Vanguard said they had to resort to other means of livelihood to survive the period and commended the federal government for relaxing the lock down.

Mr. Clement Nnaama, a commercial vehicle driver who shuttled between Awka and Abuja said, “I am happy that the interstate routes have reopened. But I have the feeling that many people will still be skeptical about long travels. At the Awka Unizik Park, only two buses loaded for Abuja on Thursday and it took several hours to get full loads for the two vehicles. I hope that the situation will normalize in the next few days.”

Another commercial vehicle driver, Mr. Chibuike Okeke said he relocated to his village and embarked on farming throughout the period. “It was a mixed blessing for me as I now have something to rely on later in the year when most of the crops will be ready for harvest,” he said. Okeke said he was even not in a hurry to commence interstate journey because of the fear of the coronavirus, adding that he would wait for a long time before bringing out his vehicle again.

OSUN

Shina Abubakar, Osogbo

Dr. Olagunoye Ajibola, a consultant in Osun State Specialist Hospital, Osogbo said interstate ban had helped to curtail the expected surge in the number of people infected with coronavirus. According to Dr. Olagunoye Ajibola, who participated in the treatment of infected persons at the Osun State Isolation and Treatment Centre in Osogbo, the lockdown made contact tracing easy and more effective.

“The ban was effective because it helped to reduce the spread of the virus and also helped in making contact tracing of those infected more effective and easy. Although, people still found their ways around the ban to move across borders, but it was easier tracing contacts of someone who tested positive in Osun because the search areas were restricted within the state. However, now that the ban has been lifted, someone can be infected in Abuja and travels to Lagos, then to Osun and it would be more complex embarking on contact tracing in such scenario”. He added that “now that the ban has been lifted people would have to take more responsibility for their own health. Each person would have to embrace the use of face mask, observe social distancing and wash their hands regularly. It has been established that where many people are gathered and an infected person is among them, the virus spreads faster, hence, we must observe social distancing strictly in places where people gather in numbers”.

CROSS RIVER

By Ike Uchechukwu Calabar

In his reaction, the Cross River State Commissioner for Health, Dr Beta Edu asserted that there might be an upsurge in the number of positive cases across the country following the lifting of the ban on interstate movement which was why the governor, Prof Ben Ayade decided to review the state’s COVID-19 protocol.

Her words:” We are increasing the number of COVID-19 task force check points across the state to make sure that people are properly checked within and at the border point. We are not resting on our oars in making sure that the lives of CrossRiverians are protected. There might be an upsurge in the number of cases that will be recorded in the coming days. People from different places with different status will be moving around and the best way to check this is to ensure that we rejig and revitalize our men and boost their morale. For us we have entered another phase of screening and checking.

“Nigeria as a country might be entering another stage, so we need to take our hygiene more seriously even now because there is ease on movement across the country,” she said.

A health professional who pleaded anonymity told Vanguard that there was likely to be an upsurge across the country because it would not be easy to keep the health workers at the borders especially now that interstate movement has been lifted. He said:”the number of cases in the country will surely increase unless there are strict measures put in place to manage the lifting of the ban on interstate movement. If there is no form of restriction even now, there could be a rise in positive cases and we would be sitting on a ticking time bomb,” he said .

EKITI

Rotimi Ojomoyela- Ado Ekiti

In Ekiti state, the rules and protocols that prevented the spread of the disease were strictly adhered to.

Since the outbreak of the disease in the country, schools, churches, mosques or gatherings of any kind were prohibited and vehicular movement, within and interstate were restricted. All the boundaries in the state were also in complete lockdown. Vehicles smuggling people to the state were easily detected and the culprits were summarily tried. But mixed reactions have continued to trail the lifting and easing of restrictions on interstate movement by the government. Many residents in Ekiti state described the lifting of restrictions on interstate traveling as uncalled for arguing that unrestricted movement could spike the spread of the disease beyond control. Those who spoke to Vanguard in Ekiti said, the Federal government could have tarried a while, to allow the curve of the spread of Covid-19 to flatten before lifting the restrictions.

PLATEAU

By Marie-Therese Nanlong

The lifting of the ban on inter-state travel has brought relief to transporters in Plateau State who said they had been jobless for the period the ban lasted. Immediately the ban was lifted, management of different motor parks in the State went about making arrangements to commence business. The environments were being cleaned and drivers were seen washing their vehicles, ready for use. At the Plateau Rider’s park in Jos, a driver who said he did not want to be named said he was not expecting any rise in the cases of COVID-19 infection because the management of the park was proactive.

He said, “We are following the safety protocols here, we have made provision for water, soap and hand sanitizer. You have to sanitize yourself at the entrance and temperature of the intended travellers and whoever is coming into the park is taken. Our manifest is there to track where people are coming from and where they are going to. Apart from that, nobody comes into the park without a facemask and the sitting arrangement in the vehicles has changed. A 14 seater bus takes nine passengers while a 15 seater bus takes 10 people”

A passenger at the NTA park, Alfred Atang however raised concerns saying, “I am really worried about how people are moving without.The rate of infection could actually rise because of the lifting of the ban, that is why people should not engage in frivolous travels.”

ADAMAWA

By Umar Yusuf, Yola

A former National President of the Nigerian Medical Association NMA Dr. Idris Omede believed that politically, the lifting of the ban was timely as a larger percentage of Nigerians who had to move from one state to another for their means of livelihood was almost starving to death. On the other hand, Dr. Omede, who is the Chief Medical Director of Adamawa Hospital, Yola said that “the re-opening of the interstate travel now is not too good considering the present rate of the spread of the pandemic. The only option is to follow strictly government and health officials’ directives against the spread of the pandemic.

Another respondent, Chief Joshua Abu argued that the lifting of the ban would expose more people to the pandemic now that the daily record of the disease was on the increase nationwide.

Abu, a retired Executive Director of mobilization with the National Orientation Agency, NOA expressed regret that all the safety measures put in place by the government and health officials were no longer workable in most places, especially in the northern states. He expressed worries that the quick opening of the inter-state travels would do more harm than good to Nigerians, especially the down trodden who used the motor parks for their travels.

AKWA-IBOM

By Chioma Onuegbu, Uyo

Reacting to the development, a lecturer at the University of Uyo (UNIUYO), Dr. Paul Ikon said, lifting the ban on the inter state travel would help in the recovery of the economy. According to him, “I don’t think the lifting of the interstate ban will cause a spike in the spread of coronavirus in the state. In Akwa Ibom state we depend so much on bringing things like food items from other states and that is why we experienced hike in the cost of some food items during the lockdown. So I believe that lifting the ban on inter state travel is a big relief. But on the palpable fear that it might increase the spread, government should be able to put adequate measures in place to monitor compliance of the safety regulations by commuters”.

Similarly the President of Oron Youth Movement (OYOM) comrade Etifit Nkereuwem described the opening of the interstate lockdown as a welcome development. He however advocated that there should be enforcement of the safety protocols and guidelines at motor parks and specific points like it is being done in churches in order to curtail spread of the virus.

TARABA

By Femi Bolaji Jalingo

In Taraba state, most of the cases recorded were imported into Taraba from other states due to the defiant attitude of both commercial drivers and travelers who flouted the restriction. With the growing number of cases and the lifting of the ban on interstate travel in the country, there were fears among residents of the state. The fears stemmed from the increasing number of recorded cases in neighbouring states like Adamawa, Benue, Gombe, Bauchi among others which share boundary with Taraba. Last week, the state recorded one new case after over three weeks of not having an active case having discharged the previous 18 who tested positive after recovering. Though there has not been any case of community transmission, the residents were not comfortable with the refusal of some people to use face masks.

DELTA

By Jimitota Onoyume

A resident of Jakpa road area of Warri, Delta state, Mrs Marian Akpos said the ban on inter state movement was not effective between Delta and Edo state. “I traveled to Lagos State during the border closure in a commercial vehicle and also came back the same period. There was no serious border lockdown, it was only on radio and newspapers. Vehicles moved freely and security operatives were bribed at border points. I don’t see any impact the lifting of the ban will have on states. I think covid-19 is going, people are developing immunity against it. Those dying from it are people with health complications, those who could not keep previous medical appointments abroad “, she said.

OGUN

James Ogunnaike, Abeokuta

In Ogun state, it was observed that nearly all the commercial vehicle operators did not comply with government directive on the number of passengers they should carry. Also, only few drivers and passengers were seen putting on their nose mask. Reacting, the Chairman, Ogun State Park Management, Comrade Hakeem Bodunrin said the state government would strictly enforce the use of face masks and sanitizers by motorists and commercial drivers.

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