COVID-19: Governors express anger as interstate travel ban collapses

Some governors have expressed frustration at the apparent collapse of the interstate travel ban by many commercial drivers and commuters.

They worried that this trend might increase the spread of the coronavirus and shoot up the number of COVID-19 cases.

To curb the coronavirus spread, President Muhammadu Buhari had on March 30 ordered lockdown in the FCT, Lagos and Ogun states for an initial period of two weeks, followed by a three-week extension.

Several state governments introduced similar restrictions to curb the COVID-19 spread.

Despite the interstate lockdown, which the President extended indefinitely to contain the spread of COVID-19, findings revealed that interstate travel in the country has refused to cease, as many interstate commercial bus drivers bribe their ways through the different checkpoints mounted by security agencies across the country.

The security agents deployed to enforce the lockdown include the police, soldiers, and personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps. In some states, some paramilitary task forces are also involved in the enforcement of the interstate travel ban.

Recently, Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai deployed commissioners and permanent secretaries to secure the borders. He said one of the cases in the state came in from Kano and the person ended up infecting about nine other persons in Kaduna State.

Governors Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Godwin Obaseki (Edo) and Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) have also accused the police of failing to enforce the interstate travel ban.

The PTF had also queried the police over the poor enforcement of the interstate travel ban.

Despite all these, findings showed that many commercial drivers and passengers were still flouting the interstate travel ban.

For instance, Edo State Governor, Obaseki, expressed worry over the failure of the people to obey the interstate travel ban.

Obaseki, who spoke through his Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr Crusoe Osagieon, disclosed that the government had arrested some travellers who eventually tested positive for COVID-19.

He said, “We noticed that some motorists are bribing their way through the borders and this is a major source of concern for us. We are worried over the failure of the interstate travel ban; people are circumventing it.

“We now have screening centres at the borders to ascertain the COVID-19 status of anyone who flouts the interstate travel ban and enters the state.”

Also, the Ogun State Government said it was worried over the violation of interstate travel ban by travellers.

The Special Adviser to Governor Dapo Abiodun on Public Communications, Remmy Hazzan, decried that it was worrisome that people were still entering the state through borders that were supposed to be closed.

“We have to be worried if we see state borders that are closed down looking like they are not. We should be worried; we are worried,” he said.

However, Hazzan said the state government had engaged the police authorities in the state to come up with strategies to stop the further violation of the interstate lockdown.

Also, the Enugu State Government expressed displeasure with the continued violation of interstate movement ban.

The state Commissioner for Information, Mr Chidi Aroh, said the state government was fighting hard to secure the borders.

“For anybody to enter Enugu from Lagos, Abuja or Kano, they must have passed through the borders of five or six states. These people are not complying with the restriction of interstate movement,” he said.

The situation was the same in Ondo State as the state government decried the high rate of violation of the interstate travel ban by some travellers.

The state Commissioner for Information, Mr Donald Ojogo, said, “The government is very worried like every other person in society. We have studied the situation carefully and decided that some extra measures be taken to curb this situation from becoming uncontrollable.”

The Osun State Government lamented the violation of interstate travel ban by travellers passing through unconventional routes.

The Chief Press Secretary to Governor Gboyega Oyetola, Ismail Omipidan, said drastic measures were already being taken to improve the restriction order.

In Ekiti State, the Coordinator of the state Task Force on COVID-19, Prof Mobolaji Aluko, said some travellers now trekked through bush paths to enter the state.

He said, “Some people have devised the means of walking through the bush paths (to enter the state).

“We learnt some of them would board motorcycles to border points in a bid to walk across. But we are working to prevent this in conjunction with security agencies.”

In Taraba State, one of our correspondents found out that vehicles were still entering the state despite the interstate travel ban.

A driver with the Taraba State Transport Corporation who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “There is a lockdown in the state but we are still driving through states. We know how to find favour from the police and other security agents.”

Another transporter who spoke on condition of anonymity said they were still travelling interstate.

“I returned from Jos last week and yesterday (Friday) I returned from Onitsha. I will be travelling to Lagos on Sunday (today). We must move to make a living and to also serve the needs of the people,” he said.

But the Chairman of the Taraba State Task Force on COVID-19 and Commissioner for Health, Dr Innocent Vakkai, said the interstate travel ban had been effective despite the reports of travellers going in and out of the state.

However, some state police commands have reacted to the allegations that motorists were bribing them to travel across states, in defiance of the President’s directive.

The Taraba Police Public Relations Officer, ASP David Misal, said the police were implementing the lockdown order and that travellers were no longer entering the state. He added that all entry points were strictly manned by the men and officers of the command as well as personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.

Also, the Benue State Command Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Catherine Anene, denied the allegations that police officers were collecting money from travellers to allow them to enter through the borders.

“Really, I cannot say that the police are doing this because they are not the only security personnel on the road,” she said.

Similarly, the spokesperson for the Osun Police Command, Yemisi Opalola, dismissed claims that policemen at the borders had compromised. She said those who entered the state during the lockdown must have taken unconventional routes.

But the Ogun Police Command admitted that some policemen were guilty of the offence.

The command’s spokesperson, Abimbola Oyeyemi, disclosed that some violators of the interstate travel ban and some erring policemen had been arrested and punished.

He blamed the public for subverting the government order and bribing their way through the borders.

He said, “We have arrested many people, taken them to mobile courts, fined them and made them to do community service.

“Nobody is telling you that the people in the police are angels. But the people too need to assist the police in reporting those that were caught.”

Oyeyemi added, “Those we have their reports have been dealt with; some have undergone orderly room trial.

“Many people are the ones corrupting the police because they want to cut corners all the time. We have arrested many that violated the lockdown order.

“Many have been charged before the court and some of the policemen caught in the act of corruption are undergoing orderly room trial. Some have been found guilty and dismissed.” – Punch.

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