COVID-19 lockdown: Niger satellite towns’ residents brace up for Abuja restriction


By Ibrahim Mohammed

Residents in Suleja, a major satellite town in Niger State and its environs are engaging in last minute rush to tidy up business and work engagements ahead of the cessation of all movements in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja with effect from 11pm (today) Monday.

Newsdiaryonline, recalls that President Muhammadu Buhari had in a nationwide broadcast announced the ‘‘cessation of all movements in Lagos and the FCT for an initial period of 14 days with effect from 11pm on Monday, 30th March 2020. This restriction will also apply to Ogun State due to its close proximity to Lagos and the high traffic between the two States.’’

Suleja, a town less than 1-hour drive to the city of Abuja pride itself as gateway to Abuja. The town and its environs including Madalla, Sabon Wuse, Gauraka amongst others are home to a large population of businessmen, public as well as private sector workers.

Prio, to the restriction of movement which will take effect in Abuja tonight, the Niger State Government had ordered closure of all schools effective from March 23, and imposition of 10am to 8pm curfew since March 25. For the satellite town residents who commute to Abuja on a daily basis  to do business or work these are certainly not the best of times for them.

A cross section of residents who fielded questions from Newdiaryonline, on Monday morning agreed that in view of the rising cases of Coronavirus infections in the country and Abuja in particular, there was the need to comply with measures put in place by governments at all levels in Nigeria.

They however, frowned at the lack of palliatives to cushion the effects of the lockdown in their places of abode and work.

A resident of Suleja who identified himself as Kingsley Agu, said his small-scale office equipment business ‘‘will no doubt be affected adversely’’ by the upcoming 14-day lockdown as announced by President Buhari on Sunday night.

Like many others, he said that ‘‘there is no palliative in Niger State’’ where he resides and ‘‘it is likely there will be none in Abuja.’’

Another respondent a civil servant who introduced himself as Friday Obada, ‘‘we now find ourselves in a very difficult situation and it is important to cooperate with the government to defeat COVID-19 so, that we can continue our normal lives again.’’

Obada, also called on the federal, states and local governments ‘‘to as a matter of urgent importance provide palliative measures for people especially poor Nigerians who before this pandemic have been gowning under economic hardship.’’

On Sunday morning when this reporter went round Suleja to monitor compliance to the curfew in Niger State, the police and other government security agencies as well as local vigilantes (Yanbanga) were seen enforcing the stay at home order.

In this vein, there were deployment of policemen at General Hospital and Church road junctions. Other areas with security presence to enforce compliance include Kantoma Bridge, Maje junction in addition to patrolling team of security personnel.

Governor of Niger State, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, had in a state-wide broadcast on March 23, ‘‘strongly advise the general public to be vigilant, adhere strictly to personal hygiene, social distancing and seek medical attention in the event of symptoms. We also call on individuals with travel history from countries and states with cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to ensure self-isolation and report to the nearest Health facility in the state. “

Meanwhile, most residents of the satellite towns are gradually adapting their daily activities in line with the window periods allowed during the curfew. But the restriction which will come into effect in Abuja as from 11pm on Monday is already creating apprehensions in the minds of many.