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Lagos residents storm markets, banks ahead of today’s market closure

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Buyers undergoing temperature checks at Mile 12 market


• Prices of goods, transport fares skyrocket
• LAGESC warns traders, vows to enforce compliance
• Traders in Ondo defy Akeredolu’s order on market closure
• Ekiti shuts markets over coronavirus spread

The market surge was expectedly intense yesterday. It was like preparing for Armageddon as Lagos residents trooped out en-masse, besieging every food commodity marts and stores in a last-minute effort to stock up as the figures of COVID-19 confirmed cases keep climbing.

As at Wednesday morning, March 25, the state has recorded 30 positive tests of coronavirus out of 46 confirmed cases in Nigeria and about 1,800 persons are currently under watch by government’s medical team while 40 to 50 are carried out daily.

The upsurge in the number of persons visiting banks, pharmacies, superstores and markets followed the Lagos State government’s directive on Tuesday that all open markets and stores should be closed except for sellers of food and medicines.

Expectedly, prices of consumables and other goods, including transport fares astronomically went up, with some food communities already out of stock by midday. The Guardian check across some major markets revealed that the major food market in the state, Mile 12, was partially closed.

Although, the government said those selling foods, drugs and other essentials were not ordered to close their market, the fear of scarcity has gripped residents as thousands invaded markets nearest to them to stock food items.

Traders took advantage of the situation to increase the prices of goods. The same goes for commercial drivers, who are expected from today to comply with the 60 per cent loading directive.

It was also gathered that although banks were not mentioned among the facilities the government expects to close shop, residents still thronged them to make transactions. Bank branches on the mainland, especially Ikeja, Oshodi, Surulere and Alimosho Local Councils of the state had to contain with the surge in customers.

There were also unusual long queues of people seeking to make withdrawals from Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) across locations visited. Specifically, branches of GTBank, Zenith, Access, First Bank among others in Alimosho, recorded the heavy presence of customers, while other machines had run out of cash by early afternoon.

Outsourced civil security operatives working with the banks were seen applying hand sanitizers on the customers and allowing controlled entry into the banking halls, resulting to extended queues outside the bank premises.

At Grocery Bazaar (GB) super-stores also along Ikotun-Idimu Road and at NNPC Ejigbo, customers were compelled to wait for some moments outside the mall to allow those already shopping within move out. By afternoon, most food items had been sold out while long queues of customers were still struggling to gain entrance into the stores. According to a security personnel, he was specifically directed by the management of GB to control the crowd, in compliance with the social distancing order of the state government.

Some non-food markets that would be affected by the closure include Computer Village, Ikeja; Balogun Market, Lagos Island; GSM Village, Ikeja along; Iyana Ipaja market; Mandilas Market and Oluwole Market on Lagos Island. Others are Kantangua Market, Alaba International Market, Trade Fair and Ladipo Markets, Arena in Oshodi, and other markets in Igando, Ikotun, Alimosho, Abule-Egba, Ebute-ero, Agege, Ogba, Oshodi, Yaba, Oyingbo, Lawanson, among ohters.

The traders affected by the market directive have urged the governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to relax the order to a few days, saying the two-week closure lacks human face. The traders asked what measures the government have put in place to sustain them during the period they have been told to stay at home.

Mrs. Mojisola, who sells rubber slippers at Mushin market, queried: “They want us to be indoors and abandon our businesses, but what are we going to eat? Is that the way it is being done in other countries? Do they want us to starve to death? I think the government is not ready for real business.”

Mrs. Fausat lamented that the government was not up and doing in its responsibility, noting that the virus should not have been imported into the country in the first place. “What were they watching when the virus entered the country. Anyway, the deed has been done but they should try as much as possible to contain it so that it will not spread further and while they are doing this, they should also consider the masses. Personally, I don’t have a bank account let alone some savings. So, if government can provide us with funds, yes, we will stay at home.”

On his part, Kunmi Dairo, who is into signage noted that he would not comply with the directive, saying he had already taken jobs from his customers that had to be delivered urgently. “I have to deliver works to my clients, as they have already paid for it. I don’t have any business with the government; they are not the ones putting food on my table, they can only say that to the civil servants. If they want to control anybody, they can only control those that they are paying their salaries.”

Also, Obinna who is into artwork, said: “The politicians should share the virus among themselves, they should not bring it to us. They don’t care about our welfare, so we don’t want to share in their sickness. I didn’t travel abroad, so why should I suffer the consequence? If the market is shut down, they only want to worsen the pains of the masses, depression may set in and may result in untimely death.”

A lady who went to the market complained bitterly about the price hikes, which was way out of her budget. “I had lean resources on me considering the time of the month, as salary earners are yet to receive their wages, but what I met at the market scared me. I couldn’t buy much because I ran out of cash. Everything was high, including common Maggi.

“Something else bothered me. Despite all the noise about coronavirus, more than 70 per cent of Lagosians just don’t care. They are carrying on as if the virus is a rich man’s disease. They were literally making fun of me because I was putting on facemask and hand gloves. Even at the ATM queue, they were literally choking themselves. We need to create more awareness. I am scared for my beloved country.”

However, the Corp Marshal, Lagos Environmental Sanitation Corps (LAGESC), CP Gbemisola Akinpelu (rtd), has declared the readiness of the agency to ensure compliance with the directives of Governor Sanwo-Olu on the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Corps Marshal, the agency is part of the essential service providers and enforcement team of the Lagos State government and has, thus, directed all operatives to remain at their duty posts to enforce compliance.

Akinpelu said LAGESC has been mandated to ensure total compliance to stem the spread of the raging pandemic and break the cycle of transmission. The measures include the closure of all open markets and stalls for seven days beginning today and the earlier directives, which mandate civil servants from Grade Levels 1 to 12 to stay at home for two weeks and practice social distancing.

According to the Corps Marshal, the operation is aimed towards ensuring safety of lives. She implored all operators of non-food and non-medical stores/markets to close down. She further admonished market leaders to inform their members on the need for strict compliance, scaling up advocacy on the need to maintain environmental cleanliness around the markets, encourage personal hygiene among members and other market users by engaging in regular hand washing with soap and water, as well as regular use of hand sanitisers and nose masks.

   
She also reiterated the need for all to adhere to the directives issued by the State Government, which bans public gatherings that includes religious and social gatherings of any kind. She concluded by saying that the agency’s officers will continue regular enforcement and monitoring and wouldn’t hesitate to deploy any lawful means necessary to ensure strict compliance across the state.

Meanwhile, traders in Ondo State yesterday defied Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu’s order on closure of markets. They refused to stay back at home. Akeredolu had ordered closure of markets, malls and shops across the state for seven days in the first instance.

Akeredolu said only the sale of life-saving and sustaining items like food, water and medicals would be allowed to be sold. But traders dealing in other items like clothing, tyres, shoes, phones and electronics opened for business. Many traders pretended to lock their shops but were attending to customers.

Some big stores at Alagbaka opened for usual business. Markets at Isikon, NEPA, Ojo-oba and Erekeson were partially opened. At Ojo-Oba traders were at the gate waiting for it to be opened but, as at press time, the gates were not opened. Shop owners at a plaza along Oba Adeshida crowded in front of the plaza calling on customers.

It was gathered that the Ondo State government planned to set up a task force to ensure compliance with the stay at home order and closure of shops. The Ondo State Police Command had on Tuesday vowed to ensure strict adherence to directives of the state government. It advised residents to stay away from bars and buy any drink to their homes for consumption to avoid contact with others.

And in Ekiti State, the governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has directed that all markets that do not sell essential commodities such as foodstuff, medicine, medical equipment and water be closed down from 5:00p.m. on Thursday. He said the directive was to curtail the spread of the dreaded coronavirus (Covid-19) in the state by ensuring that citizens observe the social distancing practice, among other measures.

The governor’s directive was contained in a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Yinka Oyebode, in Ado-Ekiti, yesterday. The statement directs all medicine stores to make sure they do not sell or display any other items whatsoever while those selling foodstuff should not display or sell anything outside foodstuffs.

Similarly, the governor has appealed to commercial drivers and the leadership of NURTW and RTEAN to reduce the outrageous fares being charged commuters, mainly students who have been returning home in their numbers following the closure of schools. Pharmacy stores were also urged not to hike the prices of essential drugs.


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