COVID-19: Inter-state lockdown breaks down

Governors cry over FG’s inability to enforce security We will enforce restriction of movement —Police

There is a brewing anxiety over apparent breakdown of the lockdown and restriction of interstate movement of non-essential persons and goods ordered by the Federal Government to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The development has reportedly resulted in the spike of virus cases in some states, particularly Lagos and Ogun and others close to them like Oyo and Osun on a daily basis.

Sunday Tribune’s investigations showed that despite the ban on interstate travels, motor parks are operating unhindered, ferrying passengers across state boundaries at exorbitant prices.

Findings also indicated that the security personnel expected to enforce the order sometimes use their operational vehicles to spirit people across states for a fee.

The nation has, for some time, been battling with the issue of almajirai hidden in trailers used to transport cows and other food items to the Southern part of the country.

But the latest development indicates that movement of people from one state to another, despite an order of the Federal Government to the contrary, is rife all over the country.

 

Ogun governor voices out frustration over COVID-19 fight

Ogun State governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, in a weekly briefing on the fight against the pandemic in his state released on Friday, lent credence to the crisis occasioned by unhindered movement of people across states.

In the statement, he lamented the rate at which the restriction order was being breached, thereby spiking COVID-19 cases.

“I must say that the level of compliance with the laid-down precautionary measures in the fight against COVID-19 is not yet at the desired level. Some people still flagrantly flout the Presidential ban on inter-State travel for non-essential services and the daily night curfew.

“For example, four people from Kotangora, Niger State, were intercepted right in front of the Governor’s Office, here at Abeokuta on Monday, this week.  What is worrisome is how they managed to beat all the security barricades along the state borders and within the states that they passed through before getting into our dear State.

“Whilst we are battling with internal migration, the immigrants from outside the country through our international land borders have also not given up, despite the closure of international borders. Nineteen (19) nationals from Togo and Ivory-Coast were intercepted after crossing into Ogun State, nay Nigeria through illegal land border routes on Wednesday. They are being quarantined at Idi-Iroko, pending repatriation back to their countries,” the governor said, disclosing that the flagrant violation of the order extended to the use of face mask and number of passengers carried by motorists.

It will be recalled that the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) had in February voiced out similar frustration arising from failure of security agencies to enforce the inter-state restriction order.

 

How we bribe our way through lockdown –Oyo transporter

A public transporter at Ojoo motor park in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, who spoke with Sunday Tribune anonymously on Saturday, explained that armed with the right price, he would convey passengers to any part of the country.

It was learnt from the park, which was as busy as it used to be on Saturday that travelling to Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, would cost N2,000 by car or N1,500 by bus.

“The price has to increase, because if we run into the security people, we have to pay them a fare on each of the passenger, although it is not every time that you see them till you get to your destination,” he explained.

At the Total Filling Station garage, Shasha junction, Ibadan, there were standby buses and cars loading passengers to Sokoto Saturday afternoon. The park operators told Sunday Tribune undercover reporter that it would cost N6,500 to go by bus, while it would be N8,500 by car, adding that they preferred traveling by night.

At a popular bus terminal at Challenge in Ibadan, transporters could be seen walking around, keeping watch on people who might be looking for a way out of the state. Once identified, the prospective traveller is booked and told to wait till the bus on queue – which is not parked in sight supposedly for the fear of law enforcement authorities – is full.

Sunday Tribune learnt that a trip to Lagos could cost around N2,000 from challenge, while it could be about N3,000 by car.

According to a transporter who spoke on condition of anonymity, going by bus was riskier than going by car, “because a car is sure to get into Lagos, while a bus is a 50-50 gamble. Depending on the mood of the security personnel at the state’s border, passengers could be allowed or denied entry. However, a car would be allowed to enter Lagos with a good excuse.

“We wish to continue to find a way to make a living and there are people who also insist that the lockdown isn’t for them, because they must do business. And this is Nigeria; even if it will be tough, we will continue to find a way around things.”

 

Despite the inconvenience, travelling is possible in Kwara too

Sunday Tribune findings also showed that interstate travelling during the lockdown period caused by the pandemic is exploitative, costly, inconvenient, but possible.

Reports have it that some of the business people who had to travel from Ilorin, Kwara State capital, to Ibadan during the lockdown experienced unpalatable journey. Those interviewed cited alleged exploitation by security agents.

“Drivers had to pass through bush paths, farms and villages to beat the security people when the lockdown start, because they are actually chasing vehicles back to where they were coming from.

“Later, they were collecting as much as N500 upwards, depending on the goods you carry in the vehicle. Passenger vehicles have no serious problems, as long as you settle,” one of the traders plying Ilorin – Ibadan route said.

Another respondent, who lamented over high cost of transportation caused by the lockdown said bus fare to Ilorin from Ibadan used to attract N1,200, but had been increased to N1,500, while car fare was hiked from N1,500 to between N2,000 and N2,500.

“The explanation they gave for the hike is that they had to settle the security people at every road block. Meanwhile, the loading is not done at the regular motor parks to avoid possible sanction,” she said.

A traveler who just traveled from Kaduna to IIorin said he only had to contend with hiked fare to make the trip, adding that the driver was settling the security agents on the way for easy passage.

“As against N5,050, the transport fare was increased to N8,050. You know now,” he said.

 

Abuja travellers moving, but paying heavily

Reports from Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) also have it that as lockdown across the country continues, persons who desperately need to travel from Abuja to various parts of the country are paying heavily.

Meanwhile, the official motor park in Kubwa is closed, but private commuters loiter around the park waiting for people who might come to make enquiries about travelling from the park.

When Sunday Tribune visited the park, about six men approached the reporter asking which state he wanted to travel to. All the men had different cars and buses parked within.

After much persuasion, the reporter followed one of the men to their office where he made enquiries about cost of travelling outside the FCT.

One of the managers of the transport companies, Chuks Peter, told Sunday Tribune that they charged N15,000 per person to Lagos.

It will be recalled that before the pandemic outbreak, passengers were charged between N8,000 and N10,000 to travel to Lagos from Abuja.

Also, it cost each passenger going to Enugu from Abuja N13,000 now. Before lockdown, with N5,000, a traveler could get to Enugu.

However, the transport company told Sunday Tribune that they found it difficult to convey passengers to Port-Harcourt and that what they do is to stop at Owerri, while the passengers look for local taxicabs to find their way into Port-Harcourt.

 

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