EDITORIAL: Delta Covid-19 Lockdown and Matters Arising (1)

Governor Ifeanyi Okowa

In the wake of the Novel Coronavirus pandemic, the world was taken unaware and before the world could realise the impact of the disease on human activities, many have died which today, is now counting above 2 million.

With the devastating casualties, especially in Europe and America, the world through the World Health Organisation, WHO took some drastic decisions to curb the spread of the devastating pandemic, which was aimed at improving the hygienic conditions of the people to improve their immune system.

Amongst the actions taken by the various governments of the world, was to encourage the constant washing of hands with soap in running waters for about 20 seconds, the use of hand sanitisers, use of hand gloves, nose and mouth mask, social distancing, and locking down of the economy and social lives.

Locking down of the economy and all social interaction became imperative when this was identified as the main breeding ground for the virus. And with that identified, the Nigerian government, and many states in the country decided to lockdown activities in their states partially or fully for atleast two weeks or fourteen days.

Amongst those states that took what they called preemptive decision to curtail the spread of the virus, was Delta State, which took effect from 1st April to 15th April, 2020, with exception of essential service providers. This however was reviewed after the first 14 days, and a 7pm to 7am curfew was imposed on the state, to check the activities of night crawlers, whom the State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, said they were identified to have braked the law of the lockdown.

With lockdown announced, followed by ranging voices for palliatives for the citizens whom are mainly day to day salary earners, and peasants who are in the rural areas, and the aged who may not have means of survival. A call was made by many in the state to provide food for the period of the lockdown.

The government in its frequent statement promised providing supports for the people to cushion the effects of the lockdown, and also encouraged well to do individuals to assist to feed the identified vulnerables within their reach in the state, which many answered.

However, despite the response to the call of the governor to help Deltans, the lockdown had generated social issues that needed to be looked into going forward.

It was observed that activities of some of the actions taken for the lockdown, was not observed as agencies that were charged to curtail it became culpable in inflicting pains on the people they were supposed to serve. Chief amongst this, is the Nigerian security, who became arrogant, and unruly as they turned the lockdown to breach the fundamental Rights of the average Deltans. The Nigerian security, most especially the Police service, known before now for their unfriendly attitudes, towards the people they swore to protect became an instrument of oppression, as the rate of extortion of the average citizens increased.

From local government to local government in the state, the story was the same. Even on designated market days, they were harassing those who were going to the market to sale their foodstuff.  Those who left their homes to the designated markets to also get some food stuff to feed their families, also fell victims, as tales of maltreatment became the order of the day. Their means of transport were ceased, and taken to the police station, and the innocent people have to bail their freedom with amount ranging from N10, 000.00.

The interstate border between Delta and other neighbouring states of Edo, Bayelsa, Anambra, Imo became very porous, as the various security attached to check the illegal inflow of people from those states, was not enforced as they became accomplices of the lockdown breakers. And this can be clearly noticed with one of the COVID-19 cases in Asaba, who travelled out of the state, within the period of the Lockdown, and still travelled back to later test positive.

In Ukwuani Local Government Area, the viral video of a combined team of the Obiaruku Police Station officers, and the vigilantes who cornered a man that went to the market to buy wraps of already cooked cassava flour, (Popularly known as Fufu) and some soup ingredients away from the road, further exposed the activities of the Nigerian Security Services during this time.

At the various designated checkpoints, while it was noticed that they flouted the instruction on social distancing, it was further observed how they flagrantly acted in a way that exposed them and their family members to the disease, they continued their extortion even on people who were legally performing their duties. The encounter between the police and medical personnels cannot be forgotten. The National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, Federal Medical Centre, FMC, Asaba, went on one day strike because of the police. Media correspondents were harassed while doing their jobs. It was alarming. The security men were behaving as if they were immune to the virus.

At Ethiope West and Sapele Local Government Areas, Primary Health Workers, who went out to carryout Polio Immunization, were arrested, but for the timely interventions of the Chairmen of the two local councils, they would had been made to cough out some money to bail their ways, illegally.

One of the worst cases of the security brutality this period, was from the police in Ogwashi-Uku, Aniocha North Local Government Area, where the police openly withdraw the sum of one hundred and Twenty thousand Naira, (N120, 000.00) from the account of a lady through Point of Service (POS) machine because her son went out to buy Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, to run the generator at home. This was an essential commodity, it was allowed by the state.

The COVID-19 lockdown in the state exposed the state and her people to a series of embarrassment from the security operatives. And moving forward, we call on the state authourity to go back to the drawing board, and have a proper discussion with the security services, as their action had not only breaded fear in the minds of the people, but it went further to help spread the virus in the state, with corrupt nature, they became accomplice to the border security of the state.

They also, because of lack of Personal Protective Equipment, exposed not only their lives and that of their immediate families to the virus attack, but their immediate neighbours at home and workplace.

This calls for immediate action from the state government if the war to keep the virus maximally out of Delta is anything to go by. With our weak economy, and poor health system, and many senior citizens in the state, who have no much financial power to take care of their medical care, we have to act fast. The disease is already in the state. The focus should be on how to reduce the numbers of cases in the state, and we believe the security services is very vital to the success for the campaign of war against the Novel pandemic virus.

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