Opeifa: Prioritise Social Distancing or force government into total lockdown

Comrade Kayode Opeifa, Executive Vice Chairman, Presidential Task Team

The Vice-Chairman, Presidential Committee on Apapa Port Access Roads Decongestion, Comrade Kayode Opeifa on Saturday identified the transport sector as a major economic sector that the Government must necessarily work on if the task of curbing COVID- 19 spread would not remain a mirage.

The former Lagos Commissioner of Transportation,  made the observation while contributing at the Channels Television Sunrise programme, on efforts at curbing the spread of Coronavirus in Nigeria.

Specifically, Opeifa said the battle must begin with everyone’s compliance with the social distancing stipulations, warning that if need be, government must also be prepared to enforce compliance.

“This is real, and what we may need to do is to step up enforcement, and it is not a punishment, it is to encourage compliance”, Opeifa highlighted.

Pointing out his dissatisfaction with the way most people had treated the issue of social distancing, Comrade Opeifa also cautioned against perceiving COVID-19 as the rich man’s disease.

“Some still see this disease as a rich man’s disease. But they have forgotten that the guy in Ekiti happened to be a driver; and we have also heard recently, that there were some people, like six men on a vessel”, he further noted.

But he was optimistic that a lot could be easily achieved, under the right handling, because the stakeholders in the transport sector, particularly the corporate stakeholders, are well informed and ready to comply, mentioning the Unions, the Police and Transport owners.

If there would be any problem in the chain, he believes it would be from the individual operator’s level.

“But, be that as it may, we need to get these guys to understand that this thing definitely affects everybody. So, the issue of monetary benefit is not totally crossed.

“This morning, I saw a vehicle with two passengers and those with one (in front), so you see those complying and those who are not; and this is where you must commend the Police Command in Lagos.

“I have also interacted with them and I can say that they are making efforts to put policemen at every possible point and I was also privy to the radio communication of the commissioner of police to all the DPOs, especially, where he was telling them what to do.

He also mentioned the efforts presently being worked out at the seaports level, adding that the present focus was on obtaining relevant operators’ inputs, all of which would be encapsulated into a vital document at the Seaports level.

Stressing the need for Government proactiveness, Kayode Opeifa warned against allowing inter-community transfer or spread of COVID-19, explaining that while other preventive measures are being implemented, social distancing must not be compromised.

“If we don’t want a lockdown, we must respect the Social distance issue!

“You need to see the way the Lagos State Government holds its media briefing, with social distancing observed, even in his compound.

“I came in here and nobody is ready to get closer to me; everybody is keeping far away, but in the transportation sector, whether we like it or not, that is a medium of a must push”, he stated further.

Opeifa stressed the need to totally prevent community to community transfer of Coronavirus, saying that if it would occur, it would be through mobility and transportation, hence the need to focus on that sector now, if total lockdown must be avoided.

Lagosians understood what he was saying. Many believe it is more pronounced in Lekki and Ikeja, at the moment.

He does not envisage resistance at the corporate level. But the same response may not be forthcoming at the individual’s level.

“For this sector, the leaderships are well informed.

“For the individual operators, they are not as educated and where they are, their means of survival is daily income. So, sometimes survival overrides their (other) instinct. So, they need a little bit of push for them to take the appropriate action.

“The Individual is key, but you don’t know his mind. Yet, that one individual can be the major problem.

“We will come to that. So, rather than focusing on that individual, I think we should focus on the corporate implementation of this directive”, he posited, recalling how the motor parks proactively reacted during the dreaded forage of Ebola, even as he noted the timely provisions of soap and washing hand bowls at parks now.

“The next stage at the motor park is the passenger, that is, the individual must be made to understand that after he has washed his hands and he enters the vehicle and there are more than two people on a row or more than one person in front, he still stands the risk of contracting the virus because there is no way he would not.

“So he should get down and if he doesn’t, and if he gets to the next stop and people see him, he will be forced to get down and be forced to trek.

“So, it is better for him to wait. There are enough buses now because the number of people on the road has reduced.

“The best place to curtail it is at the motor park where they take off, there is always a point of take-off and the final point of destination, whether you like it or not, you will be at one of these points. For the in-between, the unions are there, the enforcement officers are there. There is no bus-stop in Lagos that has no LASMA. All we need to do is to tell them, in a polite way, you educate the drivers. Once you educate Nigerians on an issue… that the thing you want to go and chop can kill you, people will obey.

“The transport sector has a well-organized union, and the members listen to the unions. I will still emphasize it that we get the unions more involved and assure them that it is better to keep safe. I know it will be difficult. You know the road is free now, so where you were making two to three trips before, you are likely to make as much as eight to ten trips now; so you will still make the money at the long run. And one of the good ways to do that is to use the motor park, use the unions and the enforcement agents!”

“I know the issue of losing revenue is an issue to those operators; and this is where we need to focus and educate them that ‘you will not lose anything, you will still make your gains’; because it is better for them to comply and then, we may maintain what we have, rather than they drive us to the point of lock-down!

“And, if we are not careful, the transport sector will drive us to lock-down, earlier than government anticipates!”, Opeifa further explained.

Culled from Maritime First

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