By Stephen Ubanna
President Muhammadu Buhari appears to have left the management of the lockdown to the governors in their various states of the Federation but under the supervision of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, headed by Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the government of the Federation.
This is evident going by the recent change of the guidelines on the phased easing of the lockdown in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve center, described as the epicenter of the Coronavirus, recently by Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the state governor. Initially the governor had excluded the non food items traders from opening their shops on the designated days approved for markets to be opened in the state.
In the new guidelineS that was released on Sunday, May 3, 2020, the governor was said to have accommodated all the traders including the non food items dealers which are to open shops on different selected days. Wale Ahmed, the state Commissioner for Local government and Chieftaincy Affairs confirmed that the governor had given approval to the non food items dealers to open shops three days in a week, between Monday May 4, and Friday, May 8, 2020 .
According to the Commissioner, the non food items traders are expected to open on the selected days between 9 A.M and 3 P.M. This is good news for SLOT and other business men and traders at the Computer village, Ikeja, Alaba and other markets where Telephone and Televisions are sold in Lagos including the popular Idumota market in Lagos Island.
The Commissioner has said that the Shopping Mall operators and other major stores in the state which had opened for sales of their products must maintain the 60 percent occupancy Capacity and ensure that adequate physical distancing is maintained.
He may have spoken the mind of the governor when he said that with the phased relaxation of the lock down in the state and opening of the markets for slales of both food items and non food items traders, the government will not ’’ tolerate street trading’’. He may have sent a signal to the traders to keep to keep to the selected dates as the government will not tolerate non Compliance.
Appealing to the traders, particular, the food items dealers to ensure Compliance with the new guidelines by ‘’wearing Face Masks and gloves’’, he said there is no going back on it. He was said to have also mandated the shop owners to provide hand sanitisers, wash hands with soap and running water at all entry points, conduct temperature checks on Customers as part of the measures to curb the spread of the disease in the state.
Recall that the governor had directed that government offices in the state would open on May 4, 2020. The directive may have been informed after discussions with Mustapha, the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID 19, which may have forced him to change his mind on Sunday, May 3, 2020. He had disclosed the category of Civil Servants that should be in the office on Monday and those that should resume on Tuesday, May 5, 2020. He was said to have made clear to those that cares to listen that only Civil servants from grade 15 and above will resume on Tuesday , May 5,2020, while those below level 14 are to stay at home from Monday, May 4, 2020. This is an indication that these other category of Public officers could only be invited to the office if their services are needed as long as the Coronavirus last in the country
In Kwara, Rafiu Ajakaye, the Secretary to the state government at the instance of Abdulrazaq Abdulrahman, the state governor was had announced additional measures to curtail Community transmission of the disease, insisting that the recent relaxation of the lock down does not mean that it is out of the wood. He had warned the people against letting down their guards as the level of threat of the infection remains high across the country.
He is right. The Nigerian Center for Disease Control, NCDC, had twitted that the number of infected persons in the country had hit 2, 558. The number of infected persons in the country may have hit the number because of the 170 new cases that were discovered between Saturday and Sunday across the country.
Gong by the new guidelines that had been revealed by the Kwara state government for the easing of the lock down relaxation, Ajakaye, the Secretary to the government had said that the curfew imposed by the government was basically to curtail the movement of people across the state. The Curfew which is expected to take effect from 6 A.M, starting from Monday, May 4, 2020, he said will be in place until further notice. This is bad news for cross border travelers in the state.
He disclosed that the measure became necessary following the agreement by the Northern states governors to prevent non– essential and unauthorized movement in the region in order to curtail the spread of the disease. Indeed, what is happening in north central state, according to sources, are not different from the situation in Kaduna, Niger and other northern states.
Take for instance, in Katsina, the President home state, of President Muhammadu Buhari, Aminu Masari, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives and the governor, has ordered the shutdown of three major weekly markets on Sunday, May 3, 2020. The markets that were said to have been affected by the governor’s directive are Garkin Daura, Dutsi and Kayawa .An aggrieved Masari had said that the closure of the three markets in the state was taken following the growing number of confirmed Coronavirus cases in the state which stakeholders no longer finding it funny.
At the rate the disease was going in the country, Godwin Emefiele, the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and Chairman , of the Banker’s Committee which has all the Money Deposit Banks, MDBs, Managing Directors as members has warned banks not to take advantage of the health crisis to lay off workers.
Emefiele, the CBN, governor, had confirmed that at the Bankers’ Committee level, they had ’’agreed to suspend lay- offs in banks across the country’’. It was learnt that the agreement was reached at the recent special meeting of the Committee which was Convened on Saturday, May 2, 2020, to further review the implications of the COVID 19, pandemic on the nation’s banking industry. They were said to have also deliberated on the issue of the operating costs of banks in view of the disruptions emanating from the global lockdown that is causing economic difficulties in the country.
Perhaps, aware of the bank’s rising interest rates across the country, Ahmed Bola Tinunubu, a former governor of Lagos state and National Leader of the All Progressive Congress, APC, has lend his voice calling on the banks to reduce interest rates on loans . The former Lagos state governor, however, appealed to the government to grant tax reliefs to the banks to facilitate reducing their interest rates to borrowers.
He noted that by granting such tax reliefs to the Financial Institutions, it will go a long way ‘’in saving the country from a monumental drag on national economic growth’’. It may be a hard decision to take by the katsina state born Nigerian President because the government is looking for money to finance the N10.33 trillion 2020 budget, with the Collapse of the International Oil market and the drop in the non oil import revenue due to the Coronavirus.
In a related Development, Kingsley Uzoka, Managing Director, United Bank for Africa, UBA, plc,a pan African Bank, has taken advantage of the government’s decision to allow banks open for transactions to assure its millions of teeming Customers across the country that its branches across the country will open for transactions starting between Monday to Friday each week.
The bank, which many believe has the interest of Customers first in its services was said to have assured them that they have no cause to worry about withdrawing from the bank to run their business or replenish their finished stock in their stores as the branches will provide the following services: Cash in their ATMs, and Over the counter service for essential cash and cheque transactions.
The bank, it was gathered has made adequate arrangement to ensure the safety of Customers in the branches that had opened for Customers to conduct their financial transactions by Compiling with the NCDC, and World Health Organisation, WHO, a United Nations, UN, health agency, safe distancing measures to curb the spread of the disease in the country.
Some of the measures put in place, according to an insider , to protect Customers from contacting the disease include regular cleaning and sanitizing of the ATMs in the branches and the Bank Head office, in Lagos, provision of hand sanitisers, at the entrance of the branches as Staff are made to wear Face Masks
Customers within and outside the country entering any of its branches to conduct their transactions have also been directed to wear Face Masks. Unlike in the past where branches of the bank allow scores of Customers into the banking hall at a ago, the situation appear to have changed with the lock down.
There are indications that no branch of the bank could attend to more than 10 Customers at a go under the present circumstances. This is basically to keep the NCDC and WHO, distancing policy since the out- break of the Wuhan Town in Hebei province of the Asian country of China emerged disease.
Stickers were said to have been placed at the branches entrance ‘’ to guide the six feet social distancing requirement’’. The bank was said to have also discouraged the use of Customers sharing writing materials to fill Tellers for withdrawals in the banking hall to curb the spread of the disease. ‘’If you need to fill out any forms or deposit Slips, please come along with pen’’, the bank has warned.