LAFENWA market in Abeokuta, the Ogun state capital is usually rowdy and noisy whenever the residents stormed the market to purchase food and other essential materials during the one day break of the lockdown.
Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari had ordered a total lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun States following an advice from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Federal Ministry of Health that a ‘total lockdown be placed on the two states and the FCT.
Following Buhari’s directive, Ogun State governor, Dapo Abiodun said the state would need five days to prepare for the lockdown, shifting the lockdown to Saturday, April 4th.
The governor declared further that the state would observe a constant relaxation of the lockdown to enable residents of the state shop for essentials most especially food materials.
But, the relaxation of the lockdown as directed by Abiodun could be exposing residents to a higher risk of contracting coronavirus, The ICIR has observed.
The ICIR reporter’s visit to places shows that the residents are exposed to getting infected with Coronavirus.
Residents are seen traversing the length and breadth of the market: shopping for goods, calling prospective customers, hawking goods and haggling prices.
Oblivious of the importance of the importance of social distancing, use of face masks and other preventive measures as advised by the NCDC, the market men and women and their customers go about their business without worry.
The ICIR interviewed Opelope Olubiyi who sells fufu opposite the Lafenwa market. She said the government should not have allowed the relaxation because they are being exposed to contracting the disease.
“They should have allowed us stay indoors for 14 days without relaxation, after the 14 days, we can now go out,” she said.
Speaking to another market woman, Suleiman Balikis, who sells food items in Lafenwa market, she also expressed concerns over the constant relaxation of the lockdown.
According to her, the government is toying with their lives. She said her husband did not want to allow her come to the market until she promised to keep distance from her customers.
“I dont allow people come close to me, I just stay inside my shop while they wait outside for me to pass their goods to them, anyone that cannot wait can go to another shop,” Balikis said.
When asked if the market is usually as full as this, Balikis said the market was only that full during new year, Christmas or Salah festivals.
The ICIR visited Lafenwa, Itoku, Panseke, Olomore and Omida markets in Abeokuta and the situation was not different. People were out enmass to either buy or sell without preventive measures.
Similarly, ATM stalls visited by The ICIR reporter also showed defiance to social distancing and other use of protective measures as many people were seen on queue to use the machine, standing close to each other while trying not to spend more than the stipulated seven hours as approved by the state government.
Supermaket and grocery stores in the city also had people on queue trying to shop for essentials during their seven hours free movement.
Unlike the market women, Emmanuel Fasasi, father of four children and a Motorcycle (Okada) rider, said he is pleased with the relaxation.
He said it is an avenue for the residents of the state to quickly do what they cannot do during the lockdown.
“Bros, you see for me, I am happy, i am an Okada rider, I have no other job, if I sit at home for 14 days do you think my children won’t die of hunger,” he questioned The ICIR reporter.
He said with the seven hours break, he has time to earn and give money to his wife to cook and keep the rest of the money for emergency purpose.
“During that time, I earn as much as N1500, I give Mama Dayo N1000 to cook soup and I keep the remaining N500 for emergency, you know how children can be sometimes,” he added.
When asked if he has benefitted from the relief package by the state government, Fasasi said, to him, ‘that is a radio package’.
“Some might be benefiting from it but for me, my family and people of Ago-Oko, I can tell you that we only hear it on radio,” he added.
Akinmosu Adedayo, (not real name) a sociology lecturer in Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta said the relaxation is “a policy of ignorance”.
According to Adedayo, the government does not have good knowledge of the disease hence the constant relaxation.
“How can you keep people at home for a day and half, later gather them together in hundreds and then tell them to go back home and say you are preventing coronavirus,” he questioned.
” I wonder the type of government we have in the country, you leave them to roam about for that long but you placed a ban on Mosques and churches that does short service for their congregations,” he added.
The lecturer faulted the directive and advised the state governor to rethink and do the right thing before there is a large outbreak of the disease in the state.
Abeokuta residents again gather today to exercise the relaxation of lockdown.