On Tuesday, forum of Akwa Ibom Civil Society Organizations, CSOs called on the state government to send traders back to their stalls in the markets and to introduce social distancing and the compulsory use of face masks as steps to counter the state’s COVID-19 pandemic.
Major state markets such as Akpan-Andem and Itam have remained closed for more than three weeks now due to the 2020 Quarantine and Movement Restriction order.
The state Governor, Udom Emmanuel, during a media chat on Monday, said total lockdown in the state would not be relaxed until COVID-19 situation in the state improves and contained to a certain level, assuring that he will brief the people soon.
But, the CSOs in a statement jointly signed by its Chairman, Mr. Harry Udoh and the Secretary, Dr. Nsekpong Udoh respectively, said after observing the dense population of human beings in the makeshift markets around adjoining streets of the main markets, who were not observing the principle of social distancing, concluded that it would be better if the government returns traders to their stalls in the market.
The statement reads in parts, “The markets – Akpan Andem and Itam – have been closed by the government but the traders have been allowed trade on adjoining roads. For Itam Market, the Calabar-Itu Road running from the point close the overhead bridge at Ikot Ekpene Road to about one kilometre into the Calabar-Itu Road, where one lane of this dual carriageway has been converted to a market, and at Akpan Andem Market, the whole Johnson street and part of Udo Umana Street spanning the breadth of the market.
“In both situations, social distancing protocol has not been adhered to. And we observe it will be difficult to respect the social distancing protocol under the circumstances.
“It was also observed that there were toll collectors going about both markets to collect tolls and levies at a time like this. We, therefore, call on the government to return the traders to their stalls in the markets and enforce social distancing and the compulsory use of face mask.”
The CSOs, however, lamented that the state government has refused to give passes to their members to enable them carry out their duties at this time despite repeated entreaties especially to the office of the Secretary to the State Government.
On the state’s palliative/relief materials recently shared, the CSO observed, ”while some communities found ingenious ways to enable the state government’s palliative/relief materials get to the poor of the poor while trying to accommodate every household in their communities, the relief materials were largely inadequate.”