By Johnson Ngwakah
Before President Muhammadu Buhari’s last broadcast on Covid-19 pandemic measures, where he ordered for the total lockdown on inter-state movement from May 4, 2020, with the exemption of people or vehicles on essential duties, Enugu State Government had on 31, March 2020 shut down its borders with other states. Unfortunately and geographically, Enugu is the gateway state from the North to the Southeast and Southsouth regions by extension, having shared borders with Kogi and Benue States.
Despite the proactive measures and untiring efforts of the Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and his government in containing and curtailing the spread of Covid-19 virus in the state, the approaches and nonchalance of the governments of Kogi and Benue in the fight against the scourge is seriously undermining Enugu government’s milestone.
This is not blamegame or baseless allegations. It is not at all. It is the obvious and fact. For instance, it is known that since the outbreak of the pandemic in Nigeria, the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yayaha Bello, whose state shares borders with nine states and Abuja never behaved or believed in the existence or otherwise of the virus, let alone closing its borders or declaring partial or total lockdown in the state for one day.
Since then till date, there has been free flow of humans and vehicles in and out of the state. The governor has even refused to allow the personnel of the National Centre For Disease and Control (NCDC) who were in the state to operate in line with the international best practice.
Recently, it was in the news that Kogi State Government has procured its own testing kits independent of NCDC and had commenced diagnosis of the virus, where they have already declared 111 person Covid-19 virus free in the state. His Benue counterpart, Mr. Samuel Ortom, apart from the initial grandstanding, appeared to have lost his voice and bearing in the battle against the pandemic, especially as it affects interstate movements and borders closure. These obvious lapses in these two neighbouring states are indirectly and directly affecting Enugu State Government’s painstaking efforts and steps in combating the virus, especially on inter-state movements.
This is the reason it has become so easy for desperate commuters and motorists plying from the North to the East, East to North amidst the nationwide ban on inter-state movement to continue to have their ways after compromising the security agents on duties.
Had it been the Kogi/ Benue State Government are serious and strict with their borders closure especially with Enugu which is the gateway state from the North to Southeast region, there is no way, commuters or motorists, including the dreaded Almajirias would have unfettered access to the Southeast and Southsouth regions in this Covid-19 pandemic era.
There is no way these recalcitrant transporters from the Southeast region, especially from Onitsha main market would have access to North with passengers whose Covid-19 virus status are unkown. These lapses have emboldened these deviants who are benefiting from it. They are not ready to let go, unless drastic measures are used against them. These lapses have also increased the influx of the almajirias and herdsmen from the Northern region to the Southern parts of the country, where residents and indigenes have raised questions, expressed fears and worries over their real motives of coming down South at this point.
Of great concern and worry in this situation is the obvious silence of the Federal Government and President Buhari on this issue. Why the silence in the face of the Kogi State governor and his government’s excesses and insouciance towards Covid-19 virus pandemic and the influx of the almajirias and herdsmen down South? Is there something Kogi government and Federal Government know and have in common about the virus, that the rest of the world does not know?
Why is the Kogi State Governor being over-indulged, condoned or pampered by Federal Government, even when his utterances, actions and inactions have exposed people to dangers and undermined the efforts of the neighbouring states and Federal Government? Why hasn’t the leadership and members of Nigerian Governors Forum rebuke or call Governor Yahaya Bello and other governors like him to order in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic? Are they afraid of them, when they are their members? Why have the Federal Government and President Buhari refused to reprimand or call the police hierarchy to order, over the obvious failure of its personnel to effectively implement the ban on inter-state movement as directed by President Buhari in his last national broadcast? Is it not obvious that there is lack of sincerity and commitment on the part of Federal Government in the fight against the spread of the virus in the country?
In Enugu State, it took the determination, commitment and decision of Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to defy the heavy downpour of May 12, 2020 to monitor and ensure compliance of the 6am-8pm nationwide curfew in the state before the security agents and the residents.That shouldn’t be the case if the security agents are doing their job and the residents abiding by the curfew directive.
Meanwhile, Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, represented by his deputy, Barr. Mrs Cecilia Ezeilo recently handed one million locally produced fabric face masks to the 17 Council chairmen to freely share to the people. Despite the sharing of these masks, affordability and prevalence of fabric face masks on the streets of Enugu, many obstinate residents have not found it worthy and necessary to wear face masks at all.
It beats one’s imagination seeing people walking on the streets of Enugu, including in market places without wearing face mask or having sanitizer. Many of the people who are in the habit of doing these are both the educated and the illiterates. Instead of putting on face masks, the females prefer coating their faces with powders, lipsticks and all kinds of make-up cosmetics, which to them is more important than wearing face masks that will disfigure their beautiful faces.
Their males counterpart prefer trimming, shaving and preserving their moustaches to wearing face masks, forgetting that only the living and the heathly rub make-up cosmetic or preserve moustaches to attract female folks. This is quite disheartening and unfortunate. This shows how human beings can reason or think sometimes, especially in developing countries like ours. It has shown that despite the lives the virus have claimed and continued to claim nationally and globally, coupled with the spikes in the rate of confirmed cases in Nigeria, some people are still living in self-delusion about the potency of the virus.
These maybe the same set of people who were opposed to even a partial lockdown in the state, claiming that people will die of hunger. Since the partial and total lockdown across the states with the exception of few states, people are yet to hear that people died of hunger, but many people have died and continued to die of COVID-19 virus.
Maybe these stubborn and ignorant residents and indigenes of Enugu, who are not often observatory of the Covid-19 precautionary measures are waiting for the Governor’s executive order on the compulsory use of face mask, before they will do the needful. But must there be government or governor’s executive order or compulsion before people can do the right thing or take care of their healthy needs, especially in this pandemic? The answer is No.
Outside these, how do one explains the rumour making rounds that some indigenes of border communities in Enugu State are among those aiding and abetting unauthorised inter-state movements in the dead of night for financial benefits in this Covid-19 pandemic era. What a soulless sell-out without considering the grave consequences of their actions. Are these sabotuers and security agents immuned from the Covid-19 virus? They are not. What measures do they put in place to protect themselves, while engaging in the illicit activities at the borders? None. It is possible they may be potential carriers of the virus, eventhough they are yet to be tested. But if the rumour about their ungodly activities turn out to be true, those involved in the act are potential sources of community transmission of the virus in the state.
The Enugu state government alongside the local governments, traditional rulers and community leaders should urgently investigate the rumour, if found to be true, should punish those involved, quickly, effectively and permanently nip their illicit activities in the bud before it escalates the Covid-19 pandemic cases in the state, especially in rural areas.
Undoubtedly, Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and his government have been on top of the situation since the Covid-19 pandemic hit Nigeria like a bolt from the blues. He has not rested on his oars and does not look like he will be resting until the virus cure is found. The governor, had apart from carrying people along in all his decisions as it concerns the Covid-19 pandemic fight, he has given all his government’s proactive, preventive and precautionary measures against the spread of the virus in the state a human face to the admiration and convenient of Ndi Enugu.
Lest, he and his government deserve the support and cooperation of everyone in the state in this era of unprecedented global health challenge.
Ngwakah, writes from Nsukka, Enugu State