By George Daniya

Over a week ago, when Governor Abubakar Sani Bello gave media briefing on the easing of Coronavirus (COVID -19) pandemic lockdown in Niger State, people must have received the news with a huge relief. However, the government emphatically made it clear that certain conditions must be met, the violation of which has its repercussions and penalty.

Governor Sani Bello is aware of the dangers the state is exposed with COVID-19 due to its strategic location in the country, as most commuters travelling from Northern and Southern parts of the country, particularly from high-risk states such as Lagos and Kano, must pass through his state. In declaring an ease, the governor was cautious.

What are the measures put in place by the government? Governor Sani Bello has cancelled lockdown days, replacing them with a daily time frame of 10:00 PM to 4:00 PM, when anyone caught would find himself or herself to blame. I, however, wonder the kind of night crawler that would still be out at such given time. Nevertheless, there could be some emergencies, such as health reasons or even shift workers reporting or closing from work, during this outlaw period, which, of course, the law enforcement officers would understand.

After careful assessment of the lockdown down policies, the governor began by opening up the commercial and economic sectors of the state, opening up the markets and banks to resume fully but in strict adherence to all safety measures, chief among them being the compulsory use of facemask in public places and respect to social distancing.

Well, to curtail the further spread of the virus (which at the time of the briefing stood at 46 confirmed cases, one death, and 26 discharged persons), the inter-state lockdown and the ban on commercial motorcycle operation are still in force. The only persons allowed for inter-state travels are those moving essential products like agriculture produce, petroleum products, manufactured goods, or engaged in providing essential services. While dismantling internal security checkpoints, the governor eased intra-state movement with a call on public motor parks to adhere strictly to guidelines issued by the Ministry of Transportation.

Although the governor has not opened up the civil service, only those on essential services are allowed to continue carrying out their lawful duties, directing all stakeholders in the education sector to see how schools will be re-opened.

The state government is stepping up efforts to increase its testing capacity; therefore, in collaboration with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the state government has reached advanced stage towards establishing a molecular testing laboratory at the Minna General Hospital, while it will also support the IBB University, Lapai, to set-up a testing centre that will include antibody and antigen tests.

Posers: From where are all these new case of COVID-19 coming? Is it that the security agents at the interstate borders are not doing their work? It will be catastrophic if community transmission sets in when the testing capacity is still low.

Yesterday alone, NCDC reported 10 cases against the state. A total of 66 persons now have been confirmed, with most cases spread within nine local government areas – Chanchaga, Suleja, Rafi, Bida, Shiroro, Borgu, Bosso, Mariga, and Kontagora.

Government has to hasten on its stand on almajarai repatriation; they are still hovering in nooks and crannies of the state and vulnerable to this virus. If anyone of them contracts it and not discovered on time for quick isolation and treatment, its spread will be fast, knowing full well how their condition of living is. And the governor is not in support of this inhuman treatment to these children that are brought upon them for the reason not their own.