How residents travelling between Ogun, Oyo defy FG’s interstate ban at night

In spite of the ban on inter-state travels by the Federal Government following the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country, Nigerians have continued to traverse Ogun and Oyo States. IFEDAYO OGUNYEMI recently joined these residents in order to document how they defy the Federal Government directive.

THE calmness of the dusk sets in on Wednesday evening, as commuters roar to attract passengers amidst the army of residents who throng the busy Apata-Omi Adio Road in Ibadan, Oyo State.

The cacophony of human voices wrestled with mechanical sounds emanating from the many vehicles who journey through the ever-busy road.

Inside this yellow bus, teddy bear hanged on the rear mirror facing the road. Maybe it is the driver’s guardian angel for the journey ahead. Aside this, three stickers of late popular Islamic preacher, Sheik Ibrahim Inyass; two of fuji artiste, Wasiu Alabi Pasuma; one each of Azeez Fashola popularly known as Naira Marley, David Adeleke popularly known as Davido and three other Korean movie actresses sat comfortably on the windscreen.

A horse whisk (irukere), the blue-coloured flag of Chelsea Football Club and green, white, green-coloured Nigerian flag rest comfortably on the dashboard of the vehicle. At the sight of the Nigerian flag, one would believe the driver is a patriot who believes in the project, Nigeria.

The irony, however, is that, despite the presence of the Nigerian flag, he defied the Federal Government and the Ogun and Oyo State directives on the interstate travel ban.

Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari on March 28, 2020, while declaring lockdown in some states as part of efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, banned interstate travels, except for essential goods.

The Ogun and Oyo State governments also restated the directive by enforcing the interstate ban in their respective states. But to travel between the states is a ‘simple thing’ as the inscription on the yellow bus reads.

Nigerian Tribune went on this journey to ascertain the level of compliance with these directives by residents in these two states as confirmed COVID-19 cases continued to soar, as the majority of these cases are as a result of community transmission.

Prior to this journey, a perturbed colleague of this reporter queried him at the office, “would you still get to Abeokuta today?” at about 5:30 p.m. when he finished the day’s activities at the office.

“You can go tomorrow instead,” she advised but unbeknownst to her, this reporter was undaunted by the challenge posed by time among others.

From the office premises, he took a bike to Apata, where four buses that normally ply this route were parked waiting for passengers.

Soon after this reporter settled down in the bus, he was joined by three passengers – a male and two females – who were offloaded from another whose driver’s interests in travelling to Abeokuta had waned over lack of passengers and time.

After they cherry-picked seats inside the bus, a middle-aged woman who sat down behind this reporter vehemently lamented the slow traffic of passengers who wish to defy the Federal Government directive on the ban on interstate travel as part of measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, a disease caused by the move coronavirus in the country.

From her vituperations, Nigerian Tribune learnt she had made her way to the park more than an hour before with the hope to be to Abeokuta before 7:00 p.m. Her patience, however, ran out a couple of minutes after 6:00 p.m. She alighted from the bus, leaving this reporter with two others.

Concerns grew in this reporter’s mind as to whether the journey would be possible now that passengers willing to defy the travel ban dropped to three. These concerns did not in any way disturb the slender-built Hausa woman who sat beside this reporter as she frolicked with her two kids,  a 2-year-old boy and girl of about five or six years.

A revert to normal… But not social distancing

About 15 minutes later, two young men alighted from a motorcycle and made their way to the entrance of this vehicle. They did what this reporter failed to do before boarding..

The eldest, Rasheed (not real name), asked for the transport fare to Abeokuta.

“N1,500 ni,” said one of the men who were calling for passengers. “Haa, oti poju na. Ko to’yi ni last week na,” Rasheed interjected as he wandered around with his friend.

Left with no choice, he sat down with his friend who held a plastic bag (polythene bag) used as a temporary house for a hen being transported to Abeokuta.

Nigerian Tribune later gathered that these two friends journeyed to Ogbomoso from Abeokuta through Ibadan the previous week and now they are on their way back home in Abeokuta.

Rasheed told his younger friend that they would alight from the bus if it isn’t full by 7:00 p.m. Surprisingly, five other men joined the bus. And lo, with 10 passengers, the bus was complete under their new rules as against 14 it would take before the pandemic.

But does this new policy conform with the two-metre guidelines on social distancing?

Aside this, of the 11 occupants of the vehicle, only two persons, including this reporter, had their face masks on. Others were simply not bothered that about the unsuspecting droplets from their neighbours.

The vehicle set out and left the park at about 6:59 p.m as darkness pervades the sky above. It was time to journey to the city of Lisabi, the ancestral father of the Egba people who are predominant in Abeokuta.

The road not taken!

At Omi Adio, the journey and particularly our bus took an unprecedented turn as the driver left the old Ibadan-Abeokuta expressway (A5-road) and made a left turn for a narrow path in the bush (at the red marker). The narrow path is beside the standard gauge railway which the FG projects will connect all 36 states in the country to another.

This, the driver did because policemen who have mounted roadblocks at the boundary part of the old Ibadan-Abeokuta expressway would not allow us passage into Ogun State.

The driver specifically said, “there’s lockdown, they won’t allow us if we pass there.” He said the policeman there will turn the vehicle back towards Oyo State.

The vehicle continued on this bumpy road for about 30 minutes but there were no roadblocks. Instead, it was a motorcycle, a Toyota Camry and a tipper that we saw on the road.

He, thereafter, made a u-turn to the other side of the railway (highlighted with the yellow marker) where the bus took another bumpy road for about five minutes before connecting a tarred road (highlighted by the green marker) that led back to the Ilugun axis of the old Ibadan-Abeokuta expressway (the A5 road highlighted by the blue marker) where everyone’s fear was abated. If others, aside Rasheed, were concerned about the route, they simply didn’t express it verbally.

The underworld where trouble beckons?

Justifying his decision, the driver said: “Even on this road, I will have to pay a total of N2,000 bribe inside this bush. Policemen have roadblocks here too since they know this is the new route.

“At a roadblock here, I will pay N1,000 once and N500 each on two other roadblocks inside this bush.”

An angry and concerned Rasheed queried the rationale behind taking the narrow path. “How much bribe do you want to give the policemen that you cannot pay. At least, you collected N1,500 each from us. You must be an omo onile to know this road.”

“Didn’t you read the news last week where someone published pictures and videos of policemen who allowed vehicles pass hereafter collecting bribes. That is why they wouldn’t allow us,” he barked angrily at a passenger who queried his decision. If they turn us back at this time, will you want to go back to Ibadan?” the driver queried.

It was at this point this reporter had a rethink with his recording gadgets. He wondered if he was caught filming at this time of the night, what would become of him in this bush at the dead of the night?

The friction between Rasheed and the driver continued. “I have a right to speak and query you. You collected N3,000 from me and you’re taking this bush.,” Rasheed said as the rickety bus hopped up and down the bumpy road.

The driver said the new Oyo State Commissioner of Police alongside the Divisional Police Officer of Omi-Adio Police Station impounded four vehicles on the expressway the previous week.

Driver on a return journey to Ibadan

While still engaging Rasheed on the justification for taking the route inside the bush, the driver received at least seven phone calls intermittently. From the discussions, it was observed that the calls were from people whose goods he was transporting to Abeokuta from Ibadan.

In one of the calls, the driver was vociferously heard telling the receiver at the other end of the line that, “meet me at Asero garage before I head back to Ibadan or you won’t get your goods today.”

As the journey continued inwards Abeokuta, no policeman was sighted until the vehicle reached Odeda around 8:10 p.m. The only female passenger and her two children alighted just before the driver crumpled a Naira note into the hands of one of the team of policemen at the roadblock.

The vehicle made a stop at the entrance of the Federal College of Education (FCE), Osiele where the driver delivered another transported good to the receiver. A policeman stationed at the bus stop approached the driver to collect his share.

The vehicle made a final stop at Asero at about 8:45 p.m, where the rest of the passengers alighted. The driver, thereafter, made a return to Ibadan.

Back to Ibadan

During this reporter’s return journey to Ibadan on Friday, he jettisoned taking the old Ibadan-Abeokuta expressway. Instead, he travelled to Sagamu from where he boarded a minivan to Ibadan from the popular motorpark in the area.

Here, Nigerian Tribune reporter was the first passenger on seat. He was subsequently joined by five others before the vehicle set out for Ibadan through the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.

No policeman was seen on the ever-busy road until about 500 meters from the Dominion University in Oyo State where the driver handed over an undisclosed naira note to the policeman.

Three other roadblocks were seen on the road before and after the Tollgate, neither was the vehicle stopped nor turned back but all the vehicles made entry into Oyo State seamlessly. Police officers were merely marshalling vehicles into the state.

‘Policemen have been enforcing the travel ban’

Ogun State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Abimbola Oyeyemi, who spoke to our reporter on the phone said the police in the state have never shied away from enforcing the ban on interstate travels along the boundaries in the state.

He confirmed that a lot of people have devised different means to defy this directive but assured that the police is upbeat to arrest the situation.
Oyeyemi’s counterpart in Oyo State, SP Olugbenga Fadeyi said the police in the state have impounded over a 100 vehicles caught trying to defy the ban on interstate travels.

“Since the day the directive was given by the Federal Government, the police have been doing what is it is expected to do. Our men have been there 24/7 with other sister agencies to carry out the works on government. Only those on essential duties as spelt out are allowed passage.

 

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