By Emmanuel Uffot
With the resurgence of Covid-19 across the globe including Nigeria, many countries in Europe including USA are already enforcing another phase of lockdown to curb the spread, the latest being the total lockdown of London on Monday January 4, 2021.
In Nigeria, the resurgence 3 weeks ago had forced the federal government through the Nigeria Centre for Desease Control, NCDC to reel out fresh safety guidelines which include movement restriction from 12am- 4am, including compulsory wearing of nose mask and washing of hands with Lagos and Abuja as usual being the centre stage.
However, checks by The Value News revealed that even before the latest resurgence after the lockdown was eased with a strict directive to the people, organizations and all strata of the society to adhere to the safety protocol, it is only the banking sector that was said to be observing the strict compliance with the safety guidelines.
Prominent among the banks that had enforced the Covid-19 safety protocol in the course of their services especially in Lagos since after the lock down was ease till now is United Bank of Africa UBA plc POPULAR, pAN African Bank. In most branches of the banks in the mainland part of Lagos which has a large concentration of customers, beyond the wearing of nose mask, washing of hands and social distancing that are the primary requisite, for the comfort of their customers the bank provide chairs for them to seat under mounted canopies awaiting to be ushered inside to do their transaction.
Aside that, the bank staff also go round providing requisite transaction papers for the customers to fill which ease their transaction as soon as they are ushered in. At the head office in Marina Road, there is no easy access to the building for visitors. What informed this as we learnt primarily is because of the non- resumption of front desk staffs whose duties were to link up staffs with their guest. The implication of this is that intending visitor needs to book in advance with a staff he has appointment with before going as the staff as a rule now has to come down and attend to his guest outside the building. This practice has been on since when the initial lock down was ease.
Infact, The Value News further gathered that in furtherance of the bank’s precautionary measures during the lock down all access cards to UBA staffs and other workers in the head office building were blocked. The cards were unblock after necessary clearance were administered on each.
Similarly, First Bank, Fidelity, Zenith Bank, Access Bank and Unity Banks like UBA are other banks that are also providing convenience for their customers to wait for their turn to go in for transaction in this era of Covid-19 restriction. They also provide chairs for their teeming customers to relax under shelter canopy. Also like UBA, First Bank, Fidelity, Zenith and Access banks head office are also under strict Covid-19 safety protocol enforcement both for staffs and visitors. Staffs of the banks and visitors must as a rule wear their nose mask and wash their hands before entering the bank premises. Inside, customers also maintain social distancing while on queue for transaction.
But for Guaranty Trust Bank, checks at some of their branches in the mainland part of Lagos indicates that unlike the above mentioned banks, there are no provision for chairs and canopies for customers to wait for their turn to be called in. In some of the branches visited by this medium, it was a pathetic scene to witness a crowd of customers standing under excruciating sun, while some also crowded the entrance waiting to be ushered in.
A frustrated customer in one of the branches on Lagos- Abeokuta Expressway recounted to The Value News how he lost his ATM card and could not enter the bank for four consecutive times to get another card because of the crowd and no provision of chairs for customers to sit on. He said he had to go to Victoria Island where there are no crowd before he could get another ATM card. He said he almost closded his account in the bank. He wondered why GTB does not deem it feat to provide convenience to their customers like others in this period of Covid-19 restrictions.
However, if the banks are have still been enforcing the safety precautions as ordered by the Federal government to stem the spread of the virus which has resurged again, the same thing cannot be said of others notable Organisations especially wearing ofthe nose mask, social distancing and washing of hands.
Checks at some of the major markets in Lagos like Ilepo and Katanguwa markets along Lagos- Abeokuta Expressway, Computer Village in Ikeja, Oshodi market, Alaba market in Ojo, Yaba market and Idumota market in Lagos Island to mention a few, shows that it is still business as usual as not even a few wear nose mask while there is complete disregard for social distancing. Everywhere is over crowded with traders and buyers.
For event centers and hotels, the story is the same. At social gathering in some event centers, we observed like the markets a complete disregard for social distancing and wearing of nose mask. Same for hotels which are mostly populated at nights and weekends. Customers and workers ever since the lock down was eased in the hospitality sectors have not been adhering to the laid down safety precaution guidelines.
In organisations, even though there are plastic rubbers outside for washing of hands, visitors and workers rarely visit the buckets though they wear the nose mask, but no social distancing to say the obvious.
For churches and mosques and schools, though there was appreciable compliance at the initial stage when they were authorized to open for worship and school but the compliance had long faded away. No wearing of mask to enter church and no wearing of mask by pupils and students either even as in most of the schools there is a notice ‘No nose mask no entry’.
For transporters like commuter buses, they were directed to not only carry 60 percent of passengers to maintain social distancing but to ensure both passengers and the crew wear face mask. The compliance at the initial stage lasted for only few weeks, but it has since been business as usual. The commuter buses not only carry full load of passengers but only few wear nose mask. What is worrisome is the fact, that they had increased their fares to make up for the less passengers they were ordered to carry, but the fare has not come down even as they have returned to the status quo of carrying complete passengers to the detriment of the latter who grumbled in silence.
During political rallies for the Edo and Ondo elections, there were little or no observance of Covid-19 protocol especially social distancing and wearing of nose mask.
Surprisingly, even the hospitals that should have been the pacesetters in enforcing the Covid-19 safety precaution are not as strict as banks. Although patients and workers are must wear nose mask before entering the hospital, but there are no social distancing.
Shortly after the national lockdown was eased, it was common feature to see people on the road wearing all manner of nose mask. But those days are gone as only few do it especially with news of the outbreak of the virus in high magnitude in recent weeks.
Indeed, the resurgence of the virus which the Governor of Lagos, Babagide Sanmw-Olu was reported to have contacted weeks ago is believed to have caused government to moot an idea of another lockdown to curb the spread. This fact was made known by the both the state government and the NCDC. Both had 2 weeks ago when government release some light restriction as a fall out of the resurgence of the second wave of the virus in Nigeria frowned at the non- compliance of Nigerians to safety protocol and threatened that government could be forced to enforce another lockdown to curb the spread if Nigerians don’t heed the directive to imbibe the laid down safety guidelines.
But some Nigerians and public commentators have frowned at any lockdown, stressing that the experience last time was not palatable because government could not provide for the people during the lockdown as was done in other countries inspite of the money voted for palliatives.
The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, His Eminence Alfred Makinde in his new year sermon warned against the imposition of another lockdown as a measure to stop the spread. While advising people to be safety cautious, he pointed out that the last lockdown brought tears and pains for many Nigerians who were starving because government was not forthcoming in providing succor to Nigeria homes. He therefore urge government to tinker with another measure but lockdown to check the spread. The Catholic cleric maintained that it would be a disservice to the people if government enforce a lockdown without providing relief as was the case before.
Infact many social commentators have pointed out equivocally that any mooted lockdown in Lagos particularly may not work and could lead to a revolt by the people because government lost it at the first instance by not providing palliatives to people even as huge amount was said to have been deployed for that purposed. Many Lagosians where the lockdown was intense did not received any palliatives either in cash or kind, but the Humanitarian minister Hajia Sadig Farouk was often then quoted saying how her ministry was sharing palliatives through state governments for distribution to the ‘Vulnerable people’. Lagos it could be recalled got N10 billion from the federal government to cushion the effect of the lockdown. Other corporate organisations and European bodies equally donated billions to both the state government and federal but just like many Nigerians had suspected that these palliatives were hoarded by government officials or diverted, the suspicion was confirmed through the last EndSars protest when angry youths storm some warehouses where these palliatives were kept and carted them away.
The exposition has therefore further angered most Nigerians who do not want government to tinker with any move for another lockdown, if there is no machinery in motion to provide for the people like in other climes.
For instance, the US Congress last week voted for an increase of lockdown benefits to residence from former $600 dollars to $2000 dollars per household.
For now with the continuous spike in the number of Nigerians that are now contacting the virus in the past 3 weeks of the resurgence in the country, and the non-compliance of many Nigerians with the safety guidelines, the federal government and Lagos state is said to be in dilemma on what to do to stem the tide of increase given the in- built anger of many over how the palliatives were handled last time. To many Nigerians, government swindled them by diverting the palliatives and the cash mearnt for them, as such would not welcome any other lockdown. This The Value News gathered is what is giving government and NCDC concern.