As the coronavirus pandemic ravages Planet Earth, the Anambra State Government last Monday joined the rest of the world in attempts to limit the spread of the virus also known as Covid-19. To this end, the Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano, has instituted lockdown measures which took effect from last Monday, March, 23, until further notice, writes Jude Atupulazi, with additional reports from Chioma Ndife, Abuchi Onwumelu, and Alexander Johnson Adejoh
This was made known in a statement signed by the secretary to the Anambra State Government, Prof. Solo Chukwulobelu, who said that with 46 confirmed cases nationwide as of Wednesday March, 25th, Anambra State had not recorded any case.
The statement which read partly, 'There was need for the state to embark on such preventive measures as Anambra State hosts the largest market in Africa with over 4 million people living in the state.'
The measures by the state government are as follows:
Civil servants in the state directed to proceed on a 14-day work-from-home with effect from Tuesday, March 24, 2020. However, any civil servant may be called upon at any given time to handle an urgent assignment as the case arises. This directive excludes all staff of Anambra State Ministry of Health workers and officers on essential duty.
All public gatherings suspended in Anambra State till further notice with effect from March 23, 2020. These include traditional marriage ceremonies, community festivals, ofala festivals, masquerade festivals, igbankwu nwanyi, funeral ceremonies, baby christening, new yam festivals, title-taking ceremonies and any meeting of more than 30 participants. Traditional rulers and Presidents General of communities are to ensure full compliance or be held responsible.
All nursery, primary, secondary, vocational and tertiary schools closed with immediate effect. All academic and extra-curricular activities, equally suspended.
All public transport operators to submit the manifest of all passengers coming into Anambra State to the appropriate authorities with their names, phone numbers, residential addresses and final destination.
The general public mandated to maintain a habit of frequent hand-washing with soap and water, as well as use of alcohol based hand sanitizers.
No Keke or tricycle rider allowed to carry more than two passengers at a time.
Drivers of shuttle buses must not to carry more than three passengers at a time.
Drivers of township and mini buses must not carry more than five passengers at a time.
The public strongly advised to only visit the markets for essential commodities.
All night clubs closed until further notice, with people encouraged to sit at home.
Operators of bars and restaurants not to admit more than thirty customers at a time and must adhere strictly to the basic standards of social distancing. They must also provide hand-washing points and hand sanitizers for their customers. Any violation to attract immediate closure of the premises.
All persons returning to Anambra State from all countries of the world and states that have Covid-19 cases to go into compulsory self-isolation for 14 days and report.
Security agencies directed to ensure full compliance.
The state government also announced the constitution of an Action Committee on Covid-19 headed by the Governor to ensure a hands-on attention to the best ways of containing this plague.
The Governor said, 'Security agencies have been directed to ensure full compliance. All calls related to suspected Covid-19 should be routed to Anambra Public Health Emergency Operation Centre on 08030953771 and 08117567363.'
The full list of the committee is as follows:
Dr Vincent Okpala, Commissioner for Health; Mr C Don Adinuba; Dr Simeon Onyemaechi; Prof Igwegbe Anthony; Prof Oby Emelummadu; Dr Simon Ushie; Dr Basil Nwankwo; Dr Emmanuel Azuike; Dr Ifeoma Njelita; Dr Uche Onyejimba; Dr Chijioke Obagha; Prof Maurice Iwu; Dr Joe Akabuike; Dr Ifeanyi Okoye; Dr Ernest Ifebi; Chioma Ezenyimulu; Dr Onyeka Ibezim; Chidi Kanu; Rt. Hon Uche Okafor; Prof Solo Chukwulobelu; Chief Primus Odili; Sir Uzu Okagbue; and Chinedu Aniagboso.
With the measures rolled out by government, Fides went to town to ascertain the level of compliance.
First, on the work-from-home order, Fides observed total compliance, with Jerome Udoji Secretariat under lock and key on the first day following the order.
This was discovered when Fides visited the secretariat to monitor the level of compliance by the workers.
On arrival, Fides saw that the secretariat was under lock and key, while men of the Police Force and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps were seen making sure that it was only workers on essential duty that were allowed into the premises.
Speaking on the development, a civil servant working with the State Ministry of Housing, Mr. Vincent Iluno, described the work-from-home order by the Governor as necessary, saying that if the federal government had taken such action earlier, Nigeria would not have recorded any case of coronavirus.
Mr. Iluno who testified that he had already commenced implementation of the regular hand washing with soap in his house, called on other households to follow suit as it was for their own safety.
Contributing, Mrs Carol Ikeabbah, while commending the Governor on the order, called on people to adhere strictly to the preventive measures, noting that it was not a disease to play with because of its speedy mode of spread.
Fides also gathered that all public schools in the state officially brought their academic activities to a halt on Monday, March 23, although most private schools were still functional until Wednesday March 25.
Speaking to Fides, Mrs Catherine Igwe, Vice Principal, Academics, Kenneth Dike Memorial Secondary School, Awka, noted that the school received directives from the Post Primary School Service Commission (PPSSC) to conclude the terminal examination before Friday, March 27.
'We later received another directive to immediately shut down our school and release students as policemen had been deployed to go round schools and arrest proprietors who violated government’s order,' Mrs Igwe said.
Fides equally gathered that students in all public schools were dismissed at the early hours of the day, with the closure halting the examinations scheduled for a one week period that commenced on Friday, 20th March.
The private schools, especially those operating within Onitsha and Awka metropolis, did not however close in accordance with the State Government's directive but rather rushed through their school exams, thus reducing the original duration of the examinations from two weeks to three days in order to officially bring the school term to a close. Consequently, the students were ordered home on Wednesday, 25th March.
Also as at the time of filing this report, Fides gathered that some banks, hotels, eateries, companies, filling stations, seemed to be complying with the directives. However, tricycle and bus drivers appeared to be defying them.
At the branch of United Bank for Africa (UBA) located along Awka Express, it was observed that there was maximum cooperation between security staff of the bank and its customers who walked to the spot where the water basin for hand washing was provided at the entrance to the bank and waited for hand sanitizers to be given to them immediately after washing their hands.
Social distancing was also observed by the customers through the guidance of a top management officer at the bank who was spotted by Fides as he directed the bank's customers.
One of the top UBA Management officers at the Awka Branch who spoke to Fides on condition of anonymity, said they were doing all within the guidelines as contained in the directives given to them by the Federal Government on the mode of operation for commercial banks in the face of the deadly coronavirus.
He said they were also ready to shut down if it would help in curtailing the spread of the virus. He commended the customers whom he described as cooperative in the fight against the virus.
Operations at Zenith Bank, First Bank, Access Bank and Fidelity Bank, during a stopover at their respective branches tallied with what was seen at UBA, as hand thermometers, hand washing facilities, sanitizers, protective gloves and face masks, were all seen at the banks.
Speaking to Fides, the Supervisor at LG Show Room located along Awka-Enugu Express Way, Agatha Mgbafulike, said the LG office started taking precautionary measures before the directive from the Anambra State Government.
She expressed happiness that the customers understood the situation on ground and were always willing to allow a customer who was shopping to finish shopping before going in. She said they had stopped more than two customers from shopping together in line with the social distancing demand.
Also speaking, the supervisor at Sims Nigeria Limited, Awka Branch, Jennifer Muodili, said the team at Sims Office in Awka were taking preventive measures in the collective fight against the coronavirus. She disclosed that a staff member had been placed at the hand washing section to ensure that people coming into the office washed their hands, while another staff member was positioned at the entrance into the shopping mall to administer hand sanitizers to all persons coming into the showroom.
She said staff members were also positioned at the various points to prevent customers from handling the hand wash and sanitizers. She further disclosed that the cashier used gloves for collecting money, while others in the marketing section wore the face masks before communicating with customers.
The provision of hand sanitizers for customers and use of gloves and masks by staff members appeared to have gone wrong at Roban Stores in Awka. When Fides visited the place in the afternoon of Tuesday, a basin filled with dirty water had filled up and was pouring out as one member of staff changed it with another. This made most customers to go into the shopping mall without washing their hands.
But by nighttime, things were rectified as sanitizers and running water were in place.
There was however no compliance by transporters at Star Sunny Motors, Ekwulobia Urban Mass Transit at Aroma Junction, Awka and at Keke Park at Regina Junction, as they continued to carry 16, 18 and 4 passengers respectively.
A driver with Ekwulobia Urban Mass Transit, who plied Awka to Ekwulobia, Dike Nwankwo, who spoke to Fides, said they told the passengers about the decision of the government which would not be a difficult thing for them to do, but the passengers refused to comply with paying the fare that would cover the empty seats.
Indeed, while many fear that the reduction of the number of passengers in these vehicles would trigger an increase in fares, others believe it was better to have an increase than contract the virus.
However, it is also believed that compliance by commercial transporters can only work if government agencies come out to monitor and enforce it. Thus, even as at Wednesday, many of those vehicles were seen still carrying the old number of passengers, leaving many to wonder when Government would enforce its order.
But Government responded swiftly. A few days later, it announced that operatives of the Anambra Vigilante Group, AVG, had been ordered to commence enforcement of the state government's directive on containment of the Corona virus pandemic, with immediate effect.
In a statement in Awka, the Chairman of the Anambra State Vigilante Supervisory Committee and Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Vigilante Matters, Chief Ikechukwu Aduba, directed the Senior Zonal Supervisors of AVG in the three senatorial districts of the state to promptly mobilise the chairmen, commanders and men of the group to carry out the enforcement in collaboration with the police and other statutory security agencies in the state.
To this end, the AVG would prevent ceremonies such as traditional marriages, ofala and masquerade festivals, funeral ceremonies, baby christening and wedding anniversaries from holding in any part of the state.
Other activities affected by the restriction order include; title taking, street football, football matches and any gathering of more than thirty persons.
'All AVG units in communities in the state are equally directed to ensure that tricycle or keke operators do not carry more than two passengers at a time while minibuses are not to convey more than three passengers at a time, while township buses are to carry only five commuters at a time,' the statement read.
It also emphasised that night clubs and restaurants throughout the state remain closed down.
Chief Aduba equally called on traditional rulers and Presidents General of the 179 communities in Anambra State to support and cooperate with the AVG and other legitimate security outfits in the state to enforce the Covid – 19 restriction orders.
The Anambra State Vigilante Supervisory Committee boss reiterated that the Coronavirus pandemic was real, and urged for all hands to be on deck to contain the spread of the deadly disease.
As a follow up, the state government also threatened to sanction any president general who failed to stop individuals in their community from flouting the government's directive.
In a press statement made available to Fides and signed by Henry Nwasike for the Commissioner for Local Government, Chieftaincy and Community Affairs, the government frowned at the continued flouting of its directives.
It therefore charged presidents general of communities to monitor and enforce the order for the general good.