COVID-19: Reactions trail govt’s safety directives
By Jimoh Ahmed, Michael Ofulue & Saheed Ibrahim
Commercial motorcyclists, taxi drivers and transport companies operating in Ondo State have defied government directives to reduce the number of passengers in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Investigation by The Hope yesterday revealed that it was still business as usual as the drivers and okada operators were yet to comply.
Many of the operators carried their normal full local passengers unmolested and in open defiance of the social distancing policy meant to further curb the spread of the virus.
Some okada operators had three to four passengers on the bike against one allowed.
Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu had in a state wide broadcast last week announced the closure of all schools in the state.
In the broadcast, he also directed the people to avoid crowded places, while transporters are to maintain 60 per cent capacity.
The government also directed civil servants on grade level one to 12 to stay at home while night clubs and all social gathering were outlawed.
Reacting to this development, the Ondo state police command warned that anyone caught violating the government directives will be severely dealt with.
The Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Tee-Leo Ikoro, in a telephone chat with The Hope, said the police would enforce government order.
He disclosed that the Commissioner of Police, Mr Undie Adie, has instructed all the Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) across to ensure strict compliance.
Ikoro stated that all stakeholders in the transport system had been warned to adhere strictly to the directive and ensure that none of their men carry more than 60 percent passengers while Okada riders must not carry beyond a passenger.
He noted that all these measures are targeted at checkmating Coronavirus pandemic, and all hands must be on deck to win the war.
Meanwhile, Ondo state civil servants have expressed delight at the directive of government that all workers from level 01 to 12 to stay at home, except those rendering essential services or as directed by their Chief Executive Officers.
The workers, who spoke with The Hope described the directive as the right decision at this critical time, commending the governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu for doing the right thing.
It would be recalled that a statement released after the state Executive Council Meeting on Monday, March 23 and signed by the state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Donald Ojogo, reads:
“Governor hereby places total ban on all political, social and religious gatherings in the state for 14 days in the first instance
“Gatherings at clubs, beer parlous and joints are prohibited until further notice
“All civil servants from Grade Level 01-12, except those on essential duties as may be determined by their respective Accounting Officers and Chief Executives, are hereby advised to stay at home for now.”
“As a responsive government with a strong resolve to stem the influx of an underestimated number of persons in their hundreds into the state, especially from unverifiable areas, the State Government has already directed the Commissioner of Police and heads of other security agencies to enforce all regulations in respect of crowd control as spelt out by the Government”, Ojogo said.
A grade level 9 officer in Ondo State Judiciary, said the decision is the best for this current global crisis because “court rooms witness large number of litigants every day and no one can know who is infected. So, it’s good that work is suspended at the moment.”
A worker in the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development, who described the decision as laudable, said it would help reduce the chances of contracting and spreading the pandemic ignorantly.
An officer in the Ondo State Internal Revenue Service said that it was the best decision to be taken because tax agents deal with many people on daily basis.
Another level 08 civil servant told The Hope that it would be unwise for children to be at home while their parents are exposed to risk of contracting the virus. He expressed hope that should everyone take precautionary measures, Nigeria would be free of the virus soon.
The workers however appealed to the government to ensure that while they sit at home, their salaries are paid so as not to cause hardship for them.
Report from the four local governments in Akoko said workers on levels 1-12 complied with the directive of the governor as most government offices visited on Tuesday in the entire Akoko were almost empty.
At Akoko Northeast local government headquarters in Ikare-Akoko, only senior local government workers were seen in the complex as well as people working with the health department.
It was the same story in Okeagbe, Oka-Akoko, Isua, headquarters of Akoko Northwest, Southwest, Southeast, Owo and Ose local governments respectively.
However, it was a different story at most of the health centres visited as the health workers were seen on duty.
Speaking with The Hope, a local government worker, Mrs Alade Folasade, said it is important that civil servants obey the directive since it is for their benefit.
Mrs Alade however called on the government to ensure there is adequate compliance with the ban on social gatherings, political and religious meetings to guard against any possible spread of Coronavirus in the state.
She however appealed to government to pay worker’s salary since the stay at home order implies spending more on feeding and house upkeep.
However, the ban on social, political and religious gatherings has started taking its toil on the people.
Pubs and other social joints including okada operators are now experiencing low patronage.
A beer parlor operator, Mrs Rachael Talabi disclosed that ever since the outbreak of the COVID-19 and the order of government calling on people to avoid large crowd, she has been experiencing low sales as only few people patronise her pub.
Similarly many commercial motorcycle operators are also complaining that they are not making enough sales since the outbreak.