A week after the closure of three key markets -Wuse market, UTC Shopping Complex and Murg Shopping Plaza – all in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, by authorities for failing to comply with the COVID-19 protocols, the markets have reopened with marketers and their customers still not observing the protocols for which the markets were shut down.
On Monday, Feb. 1, Idayat Akanni, a magistrate, who presided over a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Mobile Court, ordered the sealing of Wuse market, UTC Shopping Centre and Murg Shopping Plaza both, for three days after they were found to have violated COVID-19 Health Protection Regulations Act, 2021.
Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, on Jan. 26, signed the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Health Protection Regulations 2021 in the exercise of the powers conferred upon him by Section 4 of the Quarantine Act, Cap. Q2, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2010 and all other powers enabling him.
The regulations will serve the urgent need to protect Nigerians’ health and well-being in the face of widespread and rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria.
The court reopened the markets on Wednesday, Feb. 3, after the managers were fined and wrote undertakings, that they would not violate the COVID-19 protocols in the market premises.
Ikharo Attah, the Head, Media and Enlightenment of the FCT Ministerial Committee on Enforcement of COVID-19 Guidelines, who spoke on behalf of the minister, said the committee would not condone any act to further spread of the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic in the territory.
“The Judge in her wisdom unsealed the markets and the plaza and fined them N50,000 each which they hurriedly paid and after the briefing, we will be going down to unseal the markets and the plaza,” Attah said in a recent interview.
“I believe this will serve as a detriment to other markets, both buyers and sellers must ensure they observe all necessary health protocols to stem the spread of the pandemic,” Attah said.
“For what we saw during our inspection of the markets, we noticed that they were largely prepared for compliance. But what we tell them, going forward, is the need to sustain the compliance level and the presidential order that the president assented to.”
How Nigerians Ignore COVID-19 Protocols After Markets Reopen
After a report on Feb. 2 on how traders in the markets received the closure news, HumAngle went back to the three markets to observe the level of compliance after serving the punishment.
HumAngle reports that there were washing hand points at strategic places at Wuse market. After the court’s sanction, the market management had provided many tap heads and soaps within and around the market, but people were not using them.
There was also no one to ensure people wash their hands or use a face mask as they enter the market, believed to the most popular and one of the biggest in the city.
When asked, a trader who pleaded for anonymity told HumAngle that the market’s management could not stop people and ask them about washing hands. According to him, some people might have washed their hands or used their hand sanitisers before entering the market.
“There is nothing you can do to someone who said he uses his hand sanitisers,” the trader said.
Within the market, traders and their prospective customers were not observing social distancing. The market was congested with people as everyone went about their businesses without recourse to why the market was close down a week ago.
Although many people were seen wearing their face masks, they dragged the protective gears to their chin, exposing their mouths and noses.
Wearing Face Masks To Gain Entrance
After signing the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Health Protection Regulations 2021 by the Nigerian President, it became mandatory for everyone to wear a facemask while outside their home.
This is being enforced as persons without face masks cannot access public places, including markets.
HumAngle reports that people at the market used face masks at the gate to be allowed to have access to the market but removed them as soon as they entered. Though there are banners warning people “No face mask, No entry,” there was no one to enforce this at Wuse market, yet many visitors to the market were seen putting on their face masks at the entrance.
The story was not different at the UTC market. HumAngle observed that there was a low level of compliance. The market did not follow any strict adherence to the COVID-19 regulations even after coming out of court punishment over the same issue.
At the market entrance, a tired-looking female security personnel was seen with a thermometer trying to check people’s temperature entering the market. However, her effort was frustrated as many people found their way into the market without waiting to be checked.
The situation inside the market was no better than it was at the entrance. Several traders and customers were seen wearing their nose masks on their chin, while others were not to be bothered by the matter at all; they either had theirs in their pockets or bags.
When asked why he had his nose mask in his pocket and not on his face, one of the traders told HumAngle that he was having difficulties breathing with the mask on and needed to take it off occasionally to catch his breath.
A couple of traders also cited discomfort and breathing difficulties as their reasons for not complying with the face mask rule.
Some of the traders who mistook HumAngle reporters for the NCDC agents quickly pulled up their masks to their noses, while those who had them in their pockets, apologised profusely for not putting them on.
HumAngle spoke to Saadatu Haruna, a UTC market manager, who cited insubordination as the reason for the low level of compliance in the market.
Haruna narrated how one of the market management staff was beaten and his clothes torn due to his effort to ensure strict adherence to the COVID-19 protocol.
However, she stated that the market management planned to bring an official of the NCDC or the FCTA to enforce the compliance to the COVID-19 guidelines and clamp down on the lackadaisical attitude of the traders in respect to the COVID-19 guidelines.
“Starting from tomorrow, I will get the COVID-19 task force team positioned here so they can arrest whoever is without their mask,” Haruna said.
The upsurge in the cases of COVID-19 had continued, and many people have continued to violate protocols put in place by the government to curb the spread of the deadly virus.
On Tuesday, Feb. 9, a total of 1056 positive cases were reported by Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) with Lagos having the highest cases of 214 followed by Osun and FCT with 120 and 116 cases respectively.