Residents of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, are bracing up for a total compliance with the COVID-19 guidelines or risk going to jail. The Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, began the enforcement on Monday with modest results. An initial 100 violators were arrested within the city centre, 15 of whom were convicted by a mobile court sitting at the Eagle Square, Abuja.
FCT Ministerial Task Team on COVID-19 also closed the highbrow Wuse Market, UTC Shopping Centre, and Morg Plaza, both in Garki district, for not complying with the guidelines. From midnight Monday, they are to remain closed until they have provided all the recommended structures and accessories for safe operation of public places.
Ikharo Attah, head of publicity and enlightenment of the FCT Ministerial Task Team on COVID-19, confirmed that Idayat Akanni, the presiding magistrate of the mobile court set up to try defaulters, ordered the closure in enforcement of the executive order signed President Muhammad Buhari last Wednesday.
Attah said that most of the people arrested had face masks in their pockets or hand bags but refused to wear them. On the market and shopping complexes closed, he said they failed to provide the required logistics at all entry points with thermometer for temperature checks and running water and soap.
” The judge in her wisdom after seeing what transpired here at the Eagle Square, gave a strong ruling that three key areas of default, that is the Wuse, UTC market and Murg Shopping Plaza be shut down until they comply. That means that from midnight today, these properties and markets have to remain closed based on the verdict of her Lordship. The contravention she saw was very massive and that these properties should remain sealed until compliance is actually made.
“In all the properties sealed, there were no thermometers to check temperatures; no water for customers to wash their hands, and no sanitizer. The task force has carried out massive advocacy across the city prior to the commencement of the enforcement of executive order in the city.” Attah explained.
The guidelines state that any person that contravened provisions of the regulations commits an offence, upon conviction, risking a fine or a term of six months imprisonment, or both in accordance with Section 5 of the Quarantine Act.
The people convicted yesterday were fined N2, 000 each as first offenders. Those who could not pay the fine were sentenced to two weeks community service.
This enforcement worked effectively Tuesday as most people going to work were seen wearing their face masks. Markets and commercial vehicles are the worst offenders in FCT. There is near-zero compliance in the markets by traders and customers alike, and zero social distancing. There was also zero-compliance by taxi, coaster and high capacity bus drivers with the enforcement of wearing of face masks. They over loaded their vehicles and neither wore nor enforced the wearing of masks by their passengers.
It is hoped that the enforcement of the law will bring lager compliance in the federal capital being ravage by the pandemic.
The Federal Capital Territory has 5,794 active cases of COVID-19, next to Lagos with 7,463 active cases. In terms of number of deaths, the FCT however trails Lagos and Edo States with 127 deaths against Edo’s 140 deaths, and Lagos, 329 deaths. To date, the FCT has had 16,913 infections out of which 10,992 have been discharged after successful treatment.