By Emmanuel Uffot,
Apprehension was high, speculations were rife that President Muhammadu Buhari may reinstate total lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja, due to the increased number of Coronavirus cases and the consequent mortality rate.
The fear of another looming lockdown was fueled by repeated warnings from the Presidential Task Force Chairman Boss Mustapha, who incidentally is the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF and Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo- Olu that government will reinstate total lockdown given the refusal of residents to adhere to laid down safety guidelines which included compulsory wearing of face mask before stepping out and boarding commuter buses, social distancing, vehicles carrying only 60 percent of passengers and scheduled days for markets to open.
Again the increased number of COVID 19 cases which many pointed to the fall out of the eased lockdown is said to have worried the government officials and the need to reinstate another lockdown in the prime states and FCT is said to have been at the front burner of the presidency.However the fears and anxiety of Lagosians over another lockdown, was doused when the Federal Government instead released a roadmap of phased ease of the lockdown.
Findings by The Value News revealed that the President had made elaborate consultations with stakeholders including PTF, Nigeria Center for Disease Control, NCDC, Health Minister, Medical personnel and security agencies, the governors of Lagos, Ogun and FCT minster to iron out next step of action.
We further gathered that the unfavourable reports of daily rising cases of the pandemic, had muscle many of stakeholders especially the health minister and doctors to vote for a reinstatement of a total lockdown, but security reports and opinion polls suggested to the president that another lockdown will be a hard sale and could even cause a revolt.
The reason being that many residents were angry that they could not get any palliatives even as government said the palliatives were being shared.Many public commentators and analysts like Malachi Agbai, a regular newspaper review analysts shared this view, that a further lockdown will not work as government fail from the beginning by not providing palliatives to people that were lockdown at home without any income in spite of several donations from foreign bodies and private sectors yet most people did not get the palliatives reported to be distributed.
Security agencies were able to establish that Lagosians were ready for a showdown should total lockdown be reintroduced. What really made government to cave in and go for a comprehensive ease of the lockdown instead of an obvious likely total lockdown was that government still did not have a mechanism in place for effective distribution of palliatives to people that their source of income are affected by the lockdown.
Hence the roadmap to further ease the lockdown spread into five phases.Under Phase 1,which commenced last Monday May 18, construction workers, outdoor workers, repair shops, hardware stores, fitness centers for sport activities with small groups of 4 are permitted to open. Regular health activities both private and public hospitals are to resume. Under this phase, outdoor public amenities and tourism sites like beaches have also been given approval to resume.
For Phase 2, which is scheduled to commence on June 8, a relief has come to interstate transporters as the lockdown restriction for vehicular movements has been extended from 5km to 20km. Retail outlets with small number of customers are to open. Household visitation of not more than 4 people will be allowed, so also funerals and gatherings of slightly large gatherings.
Relief has cone to school proprietors of private schools as government has approved the reopening of creches and preschool for children of essential workers under Phase 3, dated June 29.Similar ban on visit of hospital which has been in force will be lifted during this phase.
Other businesses that will open during this period include non-essential retail outlets, play grounds, cafes, restaurants and closed door sporting events.According to PTF, July 20 has been set aside for Phase 4 lockdown ease in Lagos, Ogun and FCT.Under this phase, small group gatherings for weddings and baptism will be allow while other children in creches and pre-schools will resume school.
Similarly, employees will be allowed to go to work with staggering work time put in place. Barbers, hairdressers, museums and other cultural outlets will reopen. Also to reopen within this period are hotels and other hospitality outlets.For pupils and students in schools and colleges, August 10 has been fixed under Phase 5 of the roadmap to ease lockdown for schools to resume but on a new academic calendar. This phase will also permit social gathering, resumption of normal hospital and other healthcare services activities to the public.Enclosed shopping centres, cinemas, gyms, dance studios, mass sporting events like, indoor recreational centres, festivals and other cultural events will resume this period.
Resumption of tourists travels to offshore islands has also been approved for this phase.According to the SGF, wearing of face mask and social distancing stil remain compulsory and each phase is to last for 3 weeks for observation whether to ssee how others phases should continue.The lockdown of Lagos, Ogun and FCT by President Buhari was announced on March 28.
The lockdown which was on a 2 week intervals was renewed twice before the partial eased by the president a 3 weeks ago with imposition of nationwide curfew from 8 pm.Among those that were affected by the lockdown which caused untold hardship were artisans, commuter drivers and conductors, SMEs, private schools, hotels, event centres, food vendors, churches, sporting activities, sport betting shops, interstate motorists, construction sites, cafes, drinking joints, banks and Nigerian economy