By: Bomba Dauda
Dr. Hadiza Sabuwa Balarabe, Deputy Governor of Kaduna State condemned in strong terms the unwarranted hike of prices of commodities in the state. She made government position known in a press statement on the update of Covid-19 pandemic.
“Over the course of lockdown and in keeping with our mantra of putting people first, we received complains of hikes in prices of food stuff. Following this, the State Task Force on Covid-19 met with representatives of traders on Monday and had fruitful deliberations,” she said.
To this end, Government resolved to exempt dealers of foodstuff and essential commodities from the lockdown. Specifically, retailers are permitted to bring in and offload their goods on days of the week when we are all home, these are Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. There shall be no offloading of goods within the markets on days when the lock down is relaxed. Security agencies have been informed accordingly and will ensure compliance with this directive.
I also expressed outrage over the activities of some Shylock traders who hike prices of commodities in these trying times. To say the least, their behaviour is both callous and unacceptable to civilised norms and known teachings of every religion or creed. Bluntly, I told the traders’ representatives that Government will not hesitate to prosecute any unscrupulous traders if they do not desist from this un-Godly act.
At this time, we will not just stand by and let a few elements add to the hardship already being faced by our people because of selfishness. On their part, the traders’ leaders promised to call these bad eggs to order.
The lockdown was relaxed on Tuesday and Wednesday to enable residents restock on food and other essential items. Like I directed on Monday, markets were not expected be fully opened as only traders who sell food and essential commodities were allowed to display their wares. Sellers of other merchandise were not included in the exemption.
In the same vein, residents were advised to only shop in markets or shops within their neighbourhoods, as going to far-flung commercial hubs will only add to congestion and negate the ideals of social distancing which like always, both buyers and sellers have been warned to observe during transactions.
Significantly, from Thursday 9th April 2020, Government will go beyond advise, warnings and threats, to the vigorous enforcement of the order. Right now, we are collating reports of compliance to my directive that only sellers of food and other essential items should open for business, and compliance to non-hike of prices of food items. Appropriate actions will be taken according to findings.
Personally, I witnessed a gross violation of Government’s earlier directive, ordering commercial vehicles to convey only 2 passengers per row in vehicles, in keeping with social distancing.
Yesterday, I was at one of the points of entry into kaduna that is, the Kaduna-Abuja express way, where I noticed that commercial vehicles were loaded to the brim. In fact, I had to order such erring drivers to drop off some passengers.
Also, some senior Government officials went out to monitor compliance at different parts of the State. Within the week, we will continue to monitor the whole situation and take actions as appropriate.
If necessary, Government will invite the military to complement the efforts of the police in enforcing the Quarantine order across the state.
Henceforth, the community structures, from the Ward Head, Village Head and District Head, will be held accountable for violations of the quarantine order by people within domains.
The safe corridor provided for travellers has been serially abused since the lockdown was imposed, on the pretext that these travellers were on transit, people from elsewhere have been coming into Kaduna in droves in violation of the Quarantine order. This is unacceptable. Yesterday, I directed that all entry points into the State should be closed and only authorised vehicles should be given passage. Persons without valid passes have been strongly advised to cancel travel plans to Kaduna State.
As from Thursday April 9, security agencies have been stationed at the Kaduna-Abuja express way, Kaduna-Birnin Gwari road, Kaduna-Zaria-Kano road, Kachia road, Bwari-Jere-Kagarko road, Gumel-Kwoi-Keffi road, Jos-Manchok road and Zaria-Funtua road, including all other entry points into Kaduna State. All unauthorised vehicles will be turned back at our borders and those who insist in coming into Kaduna State will spend 14 days in a designated isolation facility along these routes.
Dear people of Kaduna State, Government is doing everything within its powers to keep you and all of us safe.
In last few days, there have been suggestions from various quarters, pleading for a relaxation of the lockdown, especially to allow our Muslim and Christian faithfuls to observe Jumma’at prayers and church services respectively.
According to these proponents, our restriction order is more stringent than other neighbouring states’ and that relaxing the lockdown, they argued, is necessary because ‘’the worst is over’’, since we have kept Coronavirus at bay.
To say the least, this argument does not hold water. I want to call the attention of all to note that there are rules that guide these lockdowns as provided relevant authorities. Going back on the lockdown at this point will make us loose all the gains that have been recorded so far.
However, we will continue to review the situation and make adjustments as the situations dictate.
Dear people of Kaduna State, the Risk Assessment conducted by medical experts paints a very gloomy and painful picture for the state. Predictions from the Assessment, show that if the lockdown is faithfully implemented and people observe preventive measures handed down by health care professionals, Kaduna State will have fewer new case of COVID-19. However, if we waver, the State will be faced with the worst case scenario and we will have to deal with new cases exceeding 50,000. I am certain no one will want that to happen.
The Commissioner of Health has informed the State Standing Committee on Covid 19, that any time we record a new case, it sets us back by 14 days! I urge us all to take this with all the seriousness it deserves, we cannot afford to roll back on the sacrifice we have made, for a reprieve that will give Coronavirus a free ride into our State. Dear people of Kaduna State, I do not think we are asking for too much. We are only asking you to stay at home to prevent an outbreak that will certainly overwhelm us if it comes.
Fellow citizens, I had informed you that the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control(NCDC) will set up a testing centre in Kaduna. The Government has been in talks with Ahmadu Bello University , Zaria, for use its Laboratory at the African Centre for Excellence for Neglected Tropical Diseases.
Besides that, we are also considering other alternatives. Three days ago, I also inspected the Germfree Containerised Modular BSL-3 laboratory at Yusuf Dantsoho Memorial Hospital, Tudun Wada Kaduna. The NCDC team is in the state and we will work with the team to ensure we get the center up and running within the next few days.
In addition, we have identified an isolation centre where mild cases of the Coronavirus will be quarantined, medical personnel to man the place have been identified. Notwithstanding, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development has completed the engineering drawings for the proposed 138 bed isolation centre, using Demountable materials.
In our collaborative efforts, we had earlier reached out to the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria(DICON) and I am pleased to,report that it has started yielding fruits as DICON has produced an array of Personal Protective Equipment(PPE), these have been sent to the Ministry of Health for Quality Assurance. The corporation promised to produce these equipment en mass, if the samples meet the specified quality. It is often said that necessity is the mother of inventions; the efforts of DICON have underscored this timeless dictum.
Similarly, all the 34 members of the State House of Assembly have pledged to donate their April salaries to this noble cause. In the same spirit, modalities have been worked out for all employees of Kaduna State Government to also contribute to the pool.