Lockdown relaxation: Fear, anxiety grip Nigerians as work resumes today

As the Federal Government begins a gradual easing of the 5-week old lockdown that saw most business premises and offices closed across various states in the country, Nigerians including staff of various organisations are rather perplexed as to the form most business activities would take on resumption of duty from today.

According to a Federal Government directive to affected state governments last week, Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Federal Capital Territory which have been on lockdown since March 27, 2020 are expected  relax restriction on free movement even as banks and selected businesses are to also resume today.

While news of the relaxation came as a relief to many, some Nigerians, especially the working class have expressed apprehension over the resumption directive announced by President Muhammadu Buhari, last week.

Some of the workers who spoke to Daily Sun, argued that government’s failure to put in place some strict measures before unlocking the economy may put manyworkers in harmsway.

Presidential Task Force on coronavirus(COVID-19), last Wednesday, said the nation’s economy will reopen in phases of two weeks each spanning a total of six weeks.

Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and the Chairman of the PTF on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said the phased strategy was designed to reduce the pains of socio-economic disruptions that hit various sectors of the economy following the lockdown. He added that the period would allow for the strengthening of public health response, which would reduce economic recovery stress and provide succour to the people particularly the vulnerable.

Commenting on the workers’ concerns ahead of today’s easing, National President of the National Union of Shops and Distributive Employees (NUSDE), Mr. Innocent Jaja, said the failure to supply enough Personal Protective Equipment could put workers, patients, and communities at risk.

‘‘As workers resume today, we demand that workers are well protected through the provision of health and safety facilities and guidelines such as running water, soaps, hand sanitisers, use of protective masks and social distancing enforced at different workplaces.

In the same vein, President of the National Union of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE), Mr. Lateef Oyelekan, called on governments and employers in the private sector to throw in sufficient weight to reduce the burden of workers in the battle against COVID-19 by providing sufficient PPEs, functional wash rooms, suitable rest rooms and other facilities to make the work processes easier and safer for workers.

For his part, National President of the National Union of Banks Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees (NUBIFIE), Mr. Abakpa Anthony, corroborated the demands by NUSDE and NUFBTE, by calling on employers to make the protection of members of their staff a priority as work begins today.

Barely a month ago  a branch of a second generation bank on Victoria Island was shut down when one of its workers tested positive for coronavirus.

The development created serious panic in the banking industry as customers became apprehensive by avoiding banking halls in a bid to contain the spread of the dreaded virus.

Some workers who spoke to Daily Sun expressed fears on how commuting to and from work would be impacted as commercial buses may be a huge threat.

They complained that they may be compelled to drive in their private vehicles, which would increase their logistics cost to work, considering weekly fuelling cost which is far higher than what would be spent if they are to use commercial vehicles.

Others said social distancing inside commercial buses and at bus stops may be a near impossibility as Lagosians are always lawless and would not want to queue.

‘‘I pray the easing of this lockdown does not turn out counter-productive because the figures of recorded cases that we are  getting on a daily basis is not in anyway encouraging.’’

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has cautioned its staff to ensure full compliance with the directives and safety guidelines issued by the Federal Government ahead of the easing of the COVID-19 lockdown today. Its managing director, Capt. Fola Akinkuotu, gave the advice in a statement issued on Sunday in Lagos.

Akinkuotu said the workers should adhere strictly to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on COVID-19 preventive measures, including social distancing, regular washing of and/ or sanitising of hands and wearing of face masks.