Tuesday, 5 May 2020

COVID-19: ENUGU CLOSED BORDERS, SECURITY AGENTS AND COMMUTERS' ANTICS

Prof. Maxwell Okoye

It is no longer news that Enugu State Government had on March 31, 2020 by 6pm shut its borders and banned inter-state movement or transport to curb the spread of Covid-19 pandemic in the state. It is no longer news that President Muhammadu had in his last national broadcast on April 27, 2020 hinted that from May 4, there will be total lockdown on inter-state movement, 6am- 8pm curfew across the country with the exemption of those on essential duties.

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But it is news that despite the proactive and concerted efforts of the Enugu State Governor, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, and his workaholic team to ensure that the Covid-19 virus does not spread in the state, some unscrupulous elements are not only sabotaging it, but are determined to continue to sabotage it, without pondering on the consequences of their devilish actions.

It would be recalled that it was not quite long Enugu State was declared Covid-19 pandemic free. This was after the treatment, recovery, certification and discharge of the two index cases in the state to joy of every resident. Governor Ugwuanyi in his bid to ensure that the state is safeguard from the spread of the Corona virus had some weeks ago visited Enugu-Benue and Enugu-Kogi borders to monitor compliance on the borders' closure and remind the security agents of the need not to compromise on the directive. If what I witnessed recently at Amansea border town between Enugu and Anambra State, while on essential duty is anything to go by, it is obvious that the Governor Ugwuanyi's warning and appeals fell on deaf ears of the security agents as they have continued to sabotage the Governor's efforts with their sharp practices at the state borders.

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At the Amansea border, motorists have created emergency parks at both sides of the border, where they load and offload passengers in the presence of security agents. The motorists from Enugu side will convey passengers to their own side of the border, the passengers will settle the security agents which include the Police, personnel of Road Safety Commission and Civil Defence Corps, who will allow them to trek to the other side and board a waiting vehicle loading passengers to Anambra State. People with private cars and trucks were stopped, searched and queried. Allowing them passage depends on whom they are or how they play ball.

It is just business as usual as no vehicle or passenger was ever turned back from both sides of the border. The only difference is that commercial vehicles of major transporters like Peace Mass Transit, Young Shall Grow Motors and others are not on the roads now. But these motorists who risked to be on the roads are doing brisk business with the security agents on the roads and borders.

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To them, this is an opportunity to make quick money and damn the consequences of their actions. Surprisingly, missing in action at the Amansea border town are personnel of Enugu State Neighbourhood Watch and the Forest Guard. This is despite Governor Ugwuanyi's recent directive that they should join the security agents to man the borders within their council areas.

Who says the situation will be different with the commencement on May 4, 2020 of the 6am-8pm curfew imposed nationwide by President Muhammadu Buhari in his last broadcast on Covid-19 pandemic. It is a possibility that if not properly monitored and guided, security agents in the state will cash on this curfew to harrass, molest and abuse innocent people, and at the same time connive with desperate nocturnal crawlers in the state to flagrantly flout the directive for hedonistic reason.

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So with this ugly trend, why should people of Enugu or anybody be alarmed with the spikes in the positive cases of Covid-19 virus in Enugu recently, especially among people with travel history to the state. If this ugly development and practice by the security agents and commuters is left unchecked, Enugu may witness more cases of Covid-19 virus soon. This is not anybody's wish, but it is inevitable with the way things are going now. These security agents could be best described as sabotuers, instead of partners in the fight against the pandemic in the state. Don't say I am too harsh on them. I am not because I witnessed it. This is not hearsay or rumour.

Just like I suggested in my earlier article titled: "Enugu's Closed borders, Security Agents and Desperate Travellers" where I suggested the need for police hierarchy to set up a high-powered monitoring team to be monitoring the activities of their personnel manning the states' borders across the country in this Covid-19 lockdown, nothing has changed since then. While the Federal and State governments have worked and still working hard to combat the spread of the virus, the security agents, who are often not observatory of the pandemic's preventive measures and some people are busy undermining their efforts.

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My concern is that with the growing spikes in confirmed cases in the state, more people may likely be infected and some people, including some social media loose canons, who are also involved in the illegal border movements will soon start blaming the Enugu State Government for the mess. They won't even consider the fact that Governor Ugwuanyi and his team cannot be everywhere at the same time. The governor cannot provide the security agents with neccessary logistics to work and at the same time join them to man the state borders. It is impossible and is not done anywhere.

Meanwhile, if it has become obvious that the security agents have failed in their duty to man the state's borders, it is time and behoves Ndi Enugu to join forces with Governor Ugwuanyi and his team to raise a capable Covid-19 pandemic Surveillance Team in all the communities, using personnel of the Neighbourhood Watch, Vigilante and Forest Guard, who will be reporting to the Council chairmen.

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Also of not help in the battle against Covid-19 virus spread in Enugu State are residents and indigenes, who are in habit of harbouring and protecting people who secretly travelled or conveyed corpses of relations from other states to Enugu since the state's borders were closed on March 31, 2020.

These people, apart from exposing themselves to the risk of contracting and spreading the virus, are equally sabotaging Governor Ugwuanyi's efforts. It is the social responsibility and obligation of the residents and people of the state to always alert the local and state governments, National Centre For Disease and Control (NCDC) and other agencies of people who travelled into the state or carry in corpes without self-isolation or subjecting themselves to Covid-19 diagnosis. Going forward and to save Enugu from the rising spread of the Corona virus in recent times, the people of the state must be exemplars like Mr. Femi Adeoye of Ekiti State, who recently raised the alarm and refused his son, who travelled back from Lagos entry into his house, until he subjects himself to Covid-19 laboratory test.

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An action, which made the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, to confer on him the Covid-19 Ambassador in the state. What a patriotic and responsible citizen in the person of Mr. Femi Adeoye, even in his old age. Just look at how the traders at Ogbete main market, Enugu impudently flouted the guided and partial reopening of the market recently in the presence of the security agents.

This is despite the assurances the market leadership and the security agents gave Governor Ugwuanyi and Enugu State Government functionaries in a meeting in Government House, Enugu that they would abide by the rules of the partial reopening as spelt out by the government. Why are we like this and when are we going to change our desperate quest for wealth, even in the face of possible death?

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One thing we must realise is that neither Governor Ugwuanyi nor his government can combat this ravaging COVID-19 pandemic alone, hence there is urgent need for the security agents and the people to sincerely complement his government's impregnable efforts and strategies to curb the spread of the ravaging virus in the state, before it spread to rural communities and villages.

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