Gbenga Odunsi, Lagos
“If you see how people patronise traders at computer village, you would marvel at their level of recklessness, and wonder if coronavirus indeed exists. There’s no social distancing, the provision of soap and water are not in place, both buyers and sellers hardly use face masks. Imagine one COVID-19 patient visiting this market today”.
A concerned Lagosian — Omidiji Olamide, male, 32 — passed the above remark at Computer village in Ikeja area of Lagos, following the way and manner crowd at the technology market violated laid down COVID-19 guidelines.
For several months, Lagos, with a population of about 20 million people, has recorded a high number of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria, while Abuja, the nation’s capital followed suit. It is, however, surprising that most residents — aware of these figures — throw caution to the wind by refusing to comply with the set guidelines for preventing the spread of the virus.
In May, following the gradual easing of the lockdown in Lagos state, the government had issued new guidelines for the reopening of markets and shopping malls as part of efforts to curb the spread of the pandemic. The state government said that all markets and stores in the various Local Governments/Local Council Development Areas across the metropolis will be allowed to open from 9 a.m till 3 p.m on selected days.
It further mandated the use of face masks for everyone attending these markets and stores as well as take preventive measures such as social distancing and high levels of personal and respiratory hygiene.
Here’s why Coronavirus cases keep increasing in Lagos
Computer village, a technology market located in Ikeja area of Lagos, is one of the largest, most visited and crowded markets in the state. Others are: Yaba market, Obalende, Alaba international market, Ajah Market, Obalende, Balogun Market, Idumota, Oyingbo, Mile 12, Isale Eko Market, among others.
When Information Nigeria arrived at computer village in Ikeja, it was difficult to tell if the crowd were aware of the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the state. Traders went about their usual businesses unperturbed and without caution, not minding social distancing appeal by the government. Buyers trooped into the market in their thousands with no face masks.
A light-skinned lady who simply identified herself as Oyinade, a 400-level student of the University of Lagos, expressed regrets of visiting the market. According to her, she would have rather ordered her goods via online e-commerce than risking her life at Computer village.
“When I set out to get a laptop at Computer village, I already knew I would meet a lot of people at the market, but then, I was expecting a little bit of social distancing but where is it?
“There is nothing of such here. Zero facemasks! All I can see here are jaw masks. Everyone is protecting their jaw.
“I see a lot of people hugging and shaking hands, maintaining close contact while talking to each other with their mask under their jaw.
“A while ago, I saw people dragging wears, cloth sellers dragging you to buy from them. Again, zero physical distancing. Infact, I regret coming to this place and I can’t wait to get the laptop and leave this place, please.”
Another resident, Babatunde Ayodeji, an accountant, says: “There is no social distancing at computer village or any of the major markets in Lagos.
“That is why Bishop David Oyedepo is shouting government down.
“Same people that go to market come to church, so why give churches maximum time to operate, which does not apply to markets. For lack of social distancing, who should be arrested in the market? The seller or the buyers?
“Our government should be blamed for a copy and paste approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. Is it only market that violated social distancing? Even the federal government violated it during the burial of Abba Kyari, the late Chief of staff to President Buhari.
“You tell people and bus to carry half capacity, yet the Lagos state BRT is on full load. Is the BRT immuned?
“There should have been an avenue for rapid and increased testing procedures so that more COVID-19 patients can be ascertained and treated. Kogi has opened worship centres since more two months now, do they have cases up to Lagos. Our leaders are our bane”, he added.
Lagos Computer Village COVID-19 guidelines severely murdered
- No face mask, no entry
- Only two gates will be opened “IN” shall be Otigba gate by Awolowo road, while “OUT” will be Kodeshp gate by metro quarters.
- All pedestrian gates shall be opened.
- Cars are not allowed into the market except for delivery and pickup trucks/vans.
- No street trading until virus is completely contained.
- Shop owners are advised to maintain NCDC 60% crowd control in offices. (Customers and staffs inclusive).
- Each building should enforce “No Loitering, No Hawking”. Failure will attract sealing of building by Lagos State government.
- Shop owners must provide sanitizers for their customer use.
- Trading time shall be 9am to 2.30am as the market is expected to be locked by 2-m
- Market task force shall go round to monitor compliance.
The above guidelines were put in place by the market board of Computer Village, under the leadership of the Babaloja, Adeniyi Olasoji and Iyaloja, Abisola Azeez. Some of the rules were meant to guide both shop owners and buyers on ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Information Nigeria, however, observed that not all the laid rules were strictly adhered to.
While there are protocols guiding reopening of Computer village, it appears that traders and buyers are tired of observing the protocols, hence the violation of the rules set to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
For instance, the first rule on the list was largely flouted by both shop owners and buyers. With the “No mask, No Entry” rule, Lagosians trooped into the technology market without masks. No one, not even a soul, was apprehended at the gate this reporter observed for not wearing a mask.
Further, the fifth rule was also heavily violated in the market. Street trading took place in its fullest form, and none of the violators were apprehended or fined for a fee. Numbers 7, 8, and 9 were also flouted by traders in the market. Some buildings housing shops and offices inside the market had no signage warning of no loitering or hawing, except for banks and some others within the vicinity; some of the shops visited by Information Nigeria had no hand sanitizer in place for customer use. Above all, there is a zero level of social and physical distancing at Computer Village.
A shop owner — who is also one of the market executives and craved anonymity — bemoaned the low level of compliance, especially among the market traders who have been briefed on guidelines and protocols
“That’s why the virus keeps increasing in Lagos everyday. Just take a look at everyone in the market.
“Yes, we are all here to hustle and make a living, but at least their should be a level of precautionary measures in place. People should ensure their safety first. Na person wey dey alive go enjoy him money. I really hope the market board will do something about this before it gets out of hand.”
NCDC recommendations violated in other parts of Lagos
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC recommends that people wear masks in public places and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Face masks are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public places. The agency also recommends the use of hand sanitizer; regular washing of hands with soap and water; and practising social distancing
COVID-19 can be spread by people who do not have symptoms and do not know that they are infected. That’s why it’s important for everyone to wear masks in public settings and practice social distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from other people).
A visit to other parts of the state, including Yaba market evinces large gatherings of persons in violation of guidelines provided by the NCDC. Traders and buyers in the market crash into one another with reckless abandon. Commercial buses, private car owners and taxis were still crowded.
Some of the traders interviewed gave reasons on why it is a herculean task to comply with the new rules on handwashing, wearing of face masks, among others.
“How is it possible to control millions of people who come to the market? Enforcing these rules do not seem like a possible task, which is why I do not support the lifting of lockdown, especially in Lagos,” says Mrs Nwabufo, 45, who runs a clothing store in Yaba market.
Computer Village market board reacts
Speaking with Information Nigeria, the Iyaloja of Computer village, Mrs Abisola Azeez, says the market has done a lot to ensure that the market complies with laid down COVID-19 guidelines.
“Before the reopening of the market, we made sure we put signage on all the six entrances, we have shared a lot of free facemasks to both shop owners and buyers. We have handwashing equipment at all the six entrances, and testers, too.
“But as time went on, people tend to relax on the rules and regulations. All these rules and regulations were strictly adhered to when the market reopened and we made sure that no one entered the market without face masks. That is the best we have been able to do since the market reopened.
“Also, when we try to impose the laid down rules government provided, traders in the market bring in ethnicity and begin to fight the authority. We don’t want any issue to generate, that is why we have relaxed the market orders for now.
We are planning to engage the government to let them know the challenge we are having, so they know this is not a market board law, but Lagos State law. So when people don’t comply with the laws, it is the government that will come and impose the law themselves.”
On his part, the Public Relations Officer of the market, Mr Godwin Enamoh, dismissed reports that visitors enter the market without face masks. According to him, the market board stationed taskforce at the entrances of market to enforce ‘no face masks no entry policy’.
“Can you tell me which of the gates you noticed this? Enamoh queried.
“We have taskforce at every entrance of the market and their duty is to ensure that people who come into the market put on face masks. As a matter of fact, there are people who sell facemasks at the gates, so if you don’t have one, you buy.
“If you come to my office, you will find a lot of hand sanitizers. Same applies to most of the offices inside the market.
“On many occasions, we have had to settle fight between the taskforce and violators. I would like you to come to the market again to show me the places you visited and observed the violation of COVID-19 guidelines,” Enamoh says, after Information Nigeria told him there are footages to support the claim.
Mr Enamoh, however, admitted that it was difficult to control social distancing of people in the market.