By Uchenna Nwatu
There is a particular social media photograph of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi which, for me, both epitomizes resilient governance and offers an insight into the shocking breach that occurs at inter-state boundaries when all the cameras are gone and our supposed law enforcement officials are left to their own devices.
The late night photograph shows the governor of Enugu State braving heavy rains as he examines a line of lorries intercepted at the boundary between his state and Ebonyi State, along the Enugu – Abakaliki highway. The enforcement of the nighttime curfew imposed by the federal government in the wake of rising Covid-19 cases has become a regular routine for him. It is a particularly telling experience as each round of inspection revealed massive flouting of the nationwide ban on inter-state movement, both human and vehicular.
It is sad, however, that Enugu State has recorded 12 cases of Covid-19 (as at May 13) despite the governor’s painstaking vigilance. This is a strong indication that the figure could have been higher had he opted for the rather lackadaisical approach seen in some states. Indeed, had there been as much vigilance in neighboring states, especially on its northern flank, Enugu State may, quite possibly, not have recorded a single case.
This is particularly so given that all the recorded Covid-19 cases had arisen from persons who illegally entered the state during this period of interstate movement restriction, and closure of all boundaries.
For instance, the state’s 11th confirmed positive case announced by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on May 12, 2020, was a 40-year-old male who had been in Kano since April and came back to Enugu on May 4, traversing several states despite the existing ban on cross-boundary travel.
What this shows is that Enugu State is simply bearing the brunt of the negligence evident in some other states.
This anomaly had prompted a broadcast from Governor Ugwuanyi on Wednesday, where he fittingly declared that “it has become imperative that we all take responsibility to protect our dear state from the illegal influx of people into the state”.
Such illegal influx had been a burden Enugu State has borne since recording its index positive cases on the 28th of March. The couple from Isi-Uzo Local Government Area had then just returned from the United Kingdom and Dubai, and have both been successfully treated and discharged.
As the governor had noted in his address, “one month after the index positive cases was confirmed, on the 28th of April 2020, Enugu State had its 3rd confirmed positive case, a female indigene of Bauchi State with a history of travel to Bauchi and Plateau states.
“On the 1st of May, 2020, Enugu State had its 4th confirmed positive case, a female indigene of Umuchigbo in Enugu East Local Government Area who together with her nine-year old daughter returned to Enugu from Lagos State where they reside after falling ill.
“On the 2nd of May 2020, Enugu State had its 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th confirmed positive cases, all of whom are close contacts of the 3rd confirmed positive case and who travelled with the 3rd confirmed positive case to Bauchi and Plateau states.
“On the 6th of May 2020, Enugu State had its 9th confirmed case. A female nine-year old daughter of the 4th confirmed positive case, who returned to Enugu with her already ill mother.
“On the 7th of May 2020, Enugu State had its 10th confirmed positive case, a son of the 3rd confirmed positive case who also travelled with the mother to Bauchi and Plateau States”.
Peeved by this development, Governor Ugwuanyi charged persons tasked with the responsibility of protecting all land boundaries in the state “to put more efforts to ensure that our boundaries are properly secured to curb this unfortunate importation of the COVID-19 into the state”. He had himself demonstrated in the past weeks a strong capacity to secure the state and its residents from the ravages of the coronavirus disease, through a tireless tour of major entry points and less popular boundary communities.
In fact, he demonstrated this resolve few weeks ago when he refused to pander to the populist clamour to lift the ban on congregational worship in churches and mosques. That action earned him wide acclaim across the country, especially when there was a surge of Covid-19 cases in states whose governors had succumbed to the pressure. It was a clear vindication for Governor Ugwuanyi’s stance.
It is sad that such passion is lacking in many states. Even sadder still is the fact the consequences of that failure is not restricted to their states. As an indigene and resident of Enugu State, I enjoin every fellow residents to harken to the governor’s call urging everone to be vigilant and abide by all NCDC guidelines on social-distancing and personal hygiene.
Barring his resilience, the situation in Enugu State will have been much worse given our location as northern gateway into the South-East. Despite the current positive cases in Enugu State however, the impressive state of isolation centres in the state and their continuing upgrade and expansion offers a calming reassurance that the governor is leaving nothing to chance.
* Nwatu writes from Enugu.