Bus stops witnessed many passengers going to their various offices; gridlock was seen on major highways that had been deserted all this while; bank premises were filled to the brim.
“I had to go to the bank to report a failed transaction; I wanted to use a POS (Point of Sale) machine at a store three weeks into the lockdown. The transaction failed but my account was debited.
“I couldn’t wait for my bank to open to complain about the transaction so they could rectify it. That’s why even though I knew banks would be filled up, I still went there on Monday. I can’t forgo the money; I’m broke,” Kunle Sunmonu, a Lagos-based teacher, told our correspondent.
Another bank customer based in Abuja, Friday James, said he visited the bank on Monday to complain about a failed N100,000 transactions during the lockdown.
“I sell building products and I supplied one of my customers before the lockdown started. Three days after the lockdown started, the customer sent N100, 000 into my account but I didn’t receive any credit alert.
“I was among those who hurried to the bank as early as 7am on Monday. Even at that, I was number 70 in the queue. After I spent about four hours with no hope of being attended to, I had to leave,” he said.
A civil servant, Mrs. Elizabeth Olurunnisola, said she couldn’t be happier to drive on the streets of Lagos again after many weeks in what she described as “detention.”
She said, “It was like I was detained all this while. I’m an extrovert and staying indoors is not my thing. Coming out again on Monday was a huge relief, which was however marred by the gridlock on the Third Mainland Bridge.
“All the same, it feels good to be outdoors again and we all hope the COVID-19 pandemic would end and there would be a total easing of the lockdown.”
An Abuja-based sales manager, Chijioke Martins, said his debit card was trapped by an Automated Teller Machine during the lockdown and he needed to replace it immediately, which was why he rushed to the bank on Monday.
“Unfortunately, as I got to my bank branch at Zuba, I had to leave immediately. The crowd was too large,” he said.
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), had on March 30 ordered lockdown in the FCT, Lagos and Ogun states for an initial period of 14 days, followed by a two-week extension, which ended on April 27.
Several other states had introduced similar restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19.
However, the President extended the lockdown for one more week, adding that there would be a gradual easing of the lockdown from May 4, based on the recommendations of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
Throwing caution to the wind
But as the economy partially reopened on Monday– except in Ogun State, where the Governor, Dapo Abiodun, extended the lockdown in the state by one week to further curtail the coronavirus spread – many residents of Lagos and the FCT were seen crowding at banks and bus stops.
However, in several pictures and videos that popped up on the Internet, they were seen defying the social distancing directive of the Federal Government.
In one of the videos, some impatient customers of a new generation bank in Lagos were seen climbing the fence of the bank building to enter the premises. Several other customers were seen outside complaining of not being able to enter the banking hall.
Apart from flouting the social distancing directive, many others defied the face masks wearing directive.
In another video, some customers were seen trying to forcefully enter the premises of a new generation bank in the Ikotun area of Lagos.
Also in the commercial city, many commercial transport workers and passengers were observed to have violated the social distancing directive even though some of them wore face masks. Many commuters were seen crowded at bus stops across the city.
An accountant who lives at Ketu but works at Victoria Island, Jumoke Kolapo, said the bus parks were filled up with commuters while she was on her way to work on Monday.
She said, “There were many commuters at the bus stops. There was gridlock on the Third Mainland Bridge too. Everyone was trying to get their life back after the lockdown.
“It wasn’t easy to stay at home for such a long time; everybody would want to come out – though it was not strange; Mondays are usually busy in Lagos.”
A civil servant in Abuja, Collins Onoja, said he couldn’t help it but to visit the bank on Monday but had to turn back on sighting many customers who did not wear face masks and flouted the social distancing rule.
“I visited my bank at Wuse 2 on Monday but there was a large crowd. Many people didn’t wear face masks and there was zero social distancing. I even learned some bank customers were given numbers. I had to drive back home. Health is important. I could imagine someone with the coronavirus among the crowd. The consequence would be fatal!” he told Sunday PUNCH on the telephone.
Easing lockdown not license to take things for granted–Experts
As the lockdown is gradually being eased, experts said it was not yet time for the people to take things for granted.
A Lagos-based public health expert, Dr. Jeremiah Kajewole, advised residents of Lagos and the FCT, as well as those of Ogun State where there would likely be easing of the lockdown to be cautious when outdoors.
He said, “Social distancing should not be forgotten as people resume their business; the pandemic is not yet over. Going by the President’s recent speech, the lockdown was only eased to save the economy from collapsing. This does not mean people should throw caution to the wind.
As of Saturday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control had recorded 3,912 COVID-19 cases. While 679 patients had been discharged, 117 had died.
Another health expert based in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Mrs. Kikelomo Olatunbosun, frowned upon the manner at which some people crowded banks and bus stops on Monday, adding that it was a sign of “irresponsibility.”
She expressed surprise that some Nigerians did not believe they could contract the deadly coronavirus through the way they threw caution to the wind after the lockdown.
A lawyer and social commentator, Mr. Tunde Esan, said the problem was that hunger had dealt so much with people that they did not care about contracting the coronavirus.
He said if the government had provided palliatives for everyone, directives such as social distancing would have been easier to obey.
The lawyer said it was leadership failure for the citizens to be asked to stay at home without being provided palliatives.
“It’s a high level of irresponsibility to lock people down without feeding them. You are asking them to stay indoors without making provisions for them? In these coronavirus times, governance means leading and providing solutions,” he said.
Esan noted that in many countries, governments took over the responsibility of feeding the people immediately they announced lockdowns.
A sociologist based in Abuja, Dr. Murtala Hassan, said as much as the people had the responsibility for their health, the government had a huge role to play in enforcing the social distancing directive to curtail the COVID-19 spread.
“Such behavior displayed by the people on Monday was too barbaric; they didn’t care about others’ health. We cannot afford a second wave of this coronavirus outbreak. Our medical facilities and personnel are already overburdened,” he said.
An economist in Lagos, Dr. Babatunde Abraham, said should a second wave of the coronavirus outbreak occur in the country and there was prolonged lockdown, it could cripple the economy totally.
“If advanced economies like the United Kingdom are predicting a total cripple of their economies should a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic occur, definitely we in underdeveloped economies like Nigeria might be swept out of existence. Hence, the people should join the efforts of the government to curtail this pandemic by behaving responsibly,” he said.
The Federal Government on Monday decried nationwide non-compliance with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19’s guidelines for the gradual reopening of the economy.
A health expert based in Lagos, Dr. Kemi Sijuade, said the government might need to impose fine on people flouting directives to curb COVID-19 spread.
Sometimes when you tell people to do something, they take you for granted. But when you fine them, they wouldn’t do such a thing again,” she said.