The Abia State Civil Societies Coalition on Covid-19 and South East Youth Leaders wish to affirm its support to the phased easing of the statewide lockdown and gradual reopening of the economy begun by the state government on Monday, 11th May, 2020. Though we are not out of the woods yet, as with the contagion or pandemic, this economic lifeline given by government can help reduce hunger and likely social ills and insecurity lurking. All said, the Coalition and Leadership urge that, to the very letter, the guidelines for containment of the pandemic be followed at the markets and workplaces as we aim at containing and controlling community infection.
Barring item 2 of government’s release of 8th May, 2020, relaxing the lockdown, every other item is good for public health and safety which now is paramount.
The second item (number 2) of the release signed by Barr. Chris Ezem, Secretary to the State Government, on the said date (amended in part the following day – 9th May, 2020) could be anti-people, if not timely reviewed. The fact that all “commercial tricyclists (keke) operators and all other intra-state commercial transporters” are to only operate from and within the hours of 8:00 am to 4:00 pm is against the urban poor and even the rural poor commuters who come from the local areas of the state to sell essential goods like food items at various town markets. The Coalition and Leadership so posit having monitored, in Aba, the traffic congestion and mass hysteria that followed the closure of markets by 3:00 pm, as directed by state government, with only one hour – 3:00 pm to 4:00pm – for commuter traders to reach home most of who came from afar, in some cases from outside the city but from within the state since Aba is the state’s commercial nerve centre of Abia.
The sight of traders turned stragglers and long distance trekkers because of gridlock and lack of commercial motorists and vehicles to convey them back home as observed yesterday in Aba was excruciating as it was painful. Again, the adjustment and guideline in ordering closure of markets by 3:00 pm and all intra-state commercial transport only an hour later by 4:00 pm, created congestion and unhealthy rush hour such that people could not get home timely and in which case many commercial vehicles, due to the traffic congestion attendant, could not beat the closure time in one hour trying to commute traders. The rush by traders to meet the 4pm deadline made it impossible for them to observe the 1.5m social distancing.
It is instructive to state that allowing only private vehicles to operate from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm, as is the federal government’s order, could be against vast majority of the state’s populace, majority of which does not own vehicles. This seeming selected justice does not carter to all classes within the state and should, for humanity’s sake, be reviewed.
While we understand the likely security implications of not allowing commercial motorists, especially tricyclists and minibus operators to ply the roads and routes at certain hours at least for now, the Coalition and Leadership urge that in the interim, the operational hours for commercial vehicles be extended, in respect of the population without private cars, to at least 6:00 pm to ease unnecessary sufferings on the part of our people. It is in this that traders coming from remote areas and the commercial motorists who are equally tax payers can have sense of justice.
Finally, Coalition and Leadership commend the state government for all the containment measures so far, including border interceptions of smuggled persons (almajirai and others) and tracking of index cases and their contacts while as urge Abians to obey all the rules and keep to personal hygiene while we fight this war assured of victorious dawn.
Comrade Nelson Nnanna Nwafor.
For Abia State Civil society Coalition Against COVID 19.
Hon. Goodluck Egwu Ibem
For: Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSEYL).