December 5, 2023

Some governors have expressed frustration at the apparent collapse of the interstate travel ban by many commercial drivers and commuters .
They worried that this trend might increase the spread of the coronavirus and shoot up the number of COVID -19 cases.

Fresh 553 cases were recorded on Saturday in 14 states and the Federal Capital Territory .
Data from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control showed that Lagos had 378 ; FCT , 52; Delta, 23 ; Edo , 22; Rivers, 14 ; and Ogun, 13 .

Others were Kaduna, 12; Kano , 9 ; Borno , 7; and Katsina, 6. Jigawa and Oyo had 5 cases each while Yobe and Plateau had 3 cases each. Osun had 1.
With the new cases, Nigeria had 9,855 COVID -19 cases. There were 273 deaths and 2, 856 recoveries.

To curb the coronavirus spread , the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari ( retd) , had on March 30 ordered lockdown in the FCT , Lagos and Ogun states for an initial period of two weeks, followed by a three- week extension .

Several state governments introduced similar restrictions to curb the COVID- 19 spread.
Buhari , however , announced a gradual easing of the lockdown from May 4, based on the recommendations of the Presidential Task Force on COVID- 19.

But the President announced a nationwide curfew from 8 pm to 6 am and directed that measures such as the ban on public gatherings and non – essential interstate travel , as well as social distancing remained until further notice .

He also ordered new measures such as the compulsory wearing of face masks. Many state governors also made similar moves .

However , there are growing concerns that the interstate lockdown imposed by the President and Nigeria Governors’ Forum has failed due to the ceaseless failure of security agencies to enforce the restriction of movement imposed by the directive.

Despite the interstate lockdown , which the President extended indefinitely to contain the spread of COVID- 19, findings by Sunday PUNCH revealed that interstate travel in the country has refused to cease, as many interstate commercial bus drivers bribe their ways through the different checkpoints mounted by security agencies across the country.

The security agents deployed to enforce the lockdown include the police , soldiers , and personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps. In some states, some paramilitary task forces are also involved in the enforcement of the interstate travel ban.

Recently, Kaduna State Governor Nasir El – Rufai deployed commissioners and permanent secretaries to secure the borders. He said one of the cases in the state came in from Kano and the person ended up infecting about nine other persons in Kaduna State.

Governors Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo ), Nyesom Wike ( Rivers) , Godwin Obaseki ( Edo ) and Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti ) have also accused the police of failing to enforce the interstate travel ban.
The PTF had also queried the police over the poor enforcement of the interstate travel ban .
Despite all these, Sunday PUNCH findings showed that many commercial drivers and passengers were still flouting the interstate travel ban .

For instance, Edo State Governor, Obaseki, expressed worry over the failure of the people to obey the interstate travel ban .
Obaseki , who spoke with Sunday PUNCH through his Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy , Mr Crusoe Osagieon, disclosed that the government had arrested some travellers who eventually tested positive for COVID -19 .

He said , “ We noticed that some motorists are bribing their way through the borders and this is a major source of concern for us. We are worried over the failure of the interstate travel ban ; people are circumventing it.

“ We now have screening centres at the borders to ascertain the COVID- 19 status of anyone who flouts the interstate travel ban and enters the state . ”

Also, the Ogun State Government said it was worried over the violation of interstate travel ban by travellers.

The Special Adviser to Governor Dapo Abiodun on Public Communications, Remmy Hazzan, decried that it was worrisome that people were still entering the state through borders that were supposed to be closed .

“ We have to be worried if we see state borders that are closed down looking like they are not. We should be worried ; we are worried , ” he said .
However , Hazzan said the state government had engaged the police authorities in the state to come up with strategies to stop the further violation of the interstate lockdown .
Also, the Enugu State Government expressed displeasure with the continued violation of interstate movement ban .

The state Commissioner for Information , Mr Chidi Aroh , said the state government was fighting hard to secure the borders .
“ For anybody to enter Enugu from Lagos , Abuja or Kano , they must have passed through the borders of five or six states . These people are not complying with the restriction of interstate movement ,” he said .

The situation was the same in Ondo State as the state government decried the high rate of violation of the interstate travel ban by some travellers.
The state Commissioner for Information , Mr Donald Ojogo, said , “ The government is very worried like every other person in society . We have studied the situation carefully and decided that some extra measures be taken to curb this situation from becoming uncontrollable. ”
The Osun State Government lamented the violation of interstate travel ban by travellers passing through unconventional routes.

The Chief Press Secretary to Governor Gboyega Oyetola, Ismail Omipidan , said drastic measures were already being taken to improve the restriction order .
In Ekiti State , the Coordinator of the state Task Force on COVID -19 , Prof Mobolaji Aluko , said some travellers now trekked through bush paths to enter the state .
He said , “ Some people have devised the means of walking through the bush paths ( to enter the state ) .

“ We learnt some of them would board motorcycles to border points in a bid to walk across. But we are working to prevent this in conjunction with security agencies .”
In Taraba State , one of our correspondents found out that vehicles were still entering the state despite the interstate travel ban.

A driver with the Taraba State Transport Corporation who spoke on condition of anonymity said , “ There is a lockdown in the state but we are still driving through states. We know how to find favour from the police and other security agents. ”
Another transporter who spoke on condition of anonymity said they were still travelling interstate.
“ I returned from Jos last week and yesterday (Friday ) I returned from Onitsha. I will be travelling to Lagos on Sunday ( today) . We must move to make a living and to also serve the needs of the people, ” he said .

But the Chairman of the Taraba State Task Force on COVID- 19 and Commissioner for Health, Dr Innocent Vakkai , said the interstate travel ban had been effective despite the reports of travellers going in and out of the state .

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