The attacks on lockdown enforcement agents
AS part of measures to curtail the spread of the coronavirus global pandemic in the country, governments, national and sub-national, in deference to medical advice have emphasised social distancing where it is inevitable for people to gather, but within the officially approved and prescribed threshold in terms of headcount. However, the ideal situation advised by health officials to rein in community transmission is for everyone to stay at home in addition to observing other simple precautionary protocols. Specifically, large gatherings such as congregational worship in churches and mosques have been temporarily banned. But unfortunately, that is the quarter from which opposition to the government’s restriction order has become manifest and is indeed being resisted with violence.
In Katsina State, policemen in Kusada Divisional Police Station were reportedly overpowered by a tumultuous crowd which set the station ablaze. Their grouse was that one Malam Hassan who conducted congregational prayer in one of the Juma’at mosques in Kusada in defiance of government order was arrested for questioning by the police authorities. Ironically, the majority of the protesters were said to be youths who ordinarily should understand the government’s motive and the importance of the painful but inevitable constraint imposed on large gatherings while the nation fights a highly contagious and deadly disease. It is also most disappointing that the youths who should be helping the older generation to overcome their fears about government intentions were the ones in the vanguard of confusion and exhibition of abysmal ignorance.
The situation was not much different in Lagos State where, few days ago, over 300 worshippers at Agege Central Mosque viciously attacked the lockdown enforcement officials because they were questioned for having over 300 people in the mosque when the officially approved figure was a maximum of 25. The level of ignorance and foolishness that most probably triggered the defiance of the official order and the unwarranted attacks on government officials is most unsettling. Though novel, Covid-19 is a global pandemic and the human tragedies it has engendered and is still causing in different parts of the world, including the developed countries, are palpable. It is therefore strange that any person or group in the present circumstances would resist official actions aimed at slowing down the spiking of coronavirus infections in the country. This is worrisome, because these disobedient citizens, by their distasteful attitude, constitute health hazards not only to themselves but also to other decent and law-abiding persons.
For instance, it is axiomatic that those who could not abide by the simple instruction to avoid gathering in large numbers, about which compliance could be easily verified, are unlikely to comply with the medically advised precautionary protocols that include personal and environmental hygiene which the official radar is not programmed to capture. Yes, there might be some level of distrust between the government and the citizens occasioned by repeated official betrayals of the past. However, reasonable citizens should know where to draw the line, especially since the issue at hand is a worldwide phenomenon that is not peculiar to the country, and given that the threshold for tolerance of errors is virtually non-existent. It is a matter of life and death.
We counsel Nigerians to abide by the rules and comply with all official instructions aimed at curtailing the spread of Covid-19, a lethal disease that does not discriminate between the elite and the poor. To be sure, anyone can catch the coronavirus; it is by no means an elite-only ailment. Citizens are enjoined not to wait until their compatriots begin to fall down and die on the streets, as it reportedly happened in some jurisdictions, before they start to cooperate fully with the government and medical experts to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Somehow, it would appear that citizens’ supposed exposure to local and global information on the internet is overrated; otherwise, government should not have any difficulty enforcing any temporary restrictions on citizens’ freedom given the avalanche of materials on the deadly disease online. There is the need, therefore, to intensify citizens’ awareness on the disease. This should include the precautionary protocols to observe in order to avoid the scourge and thwart its transmission, which should be rendered in different Nigerian languages and dialects. On its part, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) has to wake up from its protracted lethargy and stand up to be counted. The agency had a glorious era when it effectively discharged its mandate of sensitisation of and dissemination of information to the masses. It should endeavour to repeat the same feat in these perilous times.
Meanwhile, we condemn in very strong terms the barbaric and embarrassing attacks on government officials who were doing their job of protecting the lives of their compatriots by enforcing the official directives on the lockdown. It is important that all and sundry realise that Covid-19 is real and that the objective of the transient impairment of their freedom is imperative in order to ensure that the country is not exposed to the danger of community transmission of the fatal disease and its awful implications. The uncivilised persons and ignoramuses who launched violent attacks on officials that were enforcing restriction orders in different parts of the country should be apprehended and severely punished to serve a deterrent to others who may want to endanger their lives and those of other persons because of their stupidity and obstinacy.
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