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‘Strict lockdown suffocating us’ – Abuja residents7 minutes read

News Central’s Poloum David reports on the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown in Abuja. Violators of the stay-at-home order are arrested for failure to wear face masks in suburbs of the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

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People's temperature are being measured at Nyanya, a border town between Abuja and Nasarawa State on March 30, 2020, after Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari called for a lockdown to limit the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. (Photo by Kola SULAIMON / AFP)

It is Wednesday morning in Nyanya, a suburb in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. Residents are seen struggling to find their way to the popular Nyanya market within the stipulated hours of 8am to 3pm authorised for movement by the Federal Capital Territory Administration, Abuja city managers, as part of measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.

In Nigeria, life has not remained the same since the first case of Coronavirus was recorded on February 27. About 35 states including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, out of 36 now have Covid-19 infection cases.

Living in a suburb in Abuja amidst urban poverty was a struggle before now, but the coronavirus pandemic may have made it even worse.

Most residents are petty traders who sell to public sector workers, who in turn form the bulk of the population in Nyanya, a suburb with a thriving community market that swells on Wednesdays when many throng the town to buy and sell.

– Low sales and social life in Nyanya –

Buyers and traders lament the sharp drop in sales as businesses are affected deeply by the pandemic-induced 8-week old lockdown in Abuja.

“I sell Okrika (urban slang for fairly used clothes), I borrowed money to buy this particular bale of clothes but because we are allowed to sell for only a few hours, I make almost no gain. I don’t know how to pay back my loans and to feed”, lamented Onyinye Caleb, a fairly used clothes seller sandwiched between bustling shoppers and commuters on the roadside.

“It’s hard on everyone, I actually came to buy a few things for my children. I had to rush through my home chores in order to get to the market before the time elapses”, Joy Peters, a shopper told News Central.

As buyers and sellers go about their reasons for being out, a key COVID-19 prevention rule preached by Abuja city authorities is broken without concern – the social distancing rule.

“I don’t understand the kind of social distancing that is being practised in Nyanya, the markets are fully packed within the few hours residents are allowed to trade and shop”, Rachael Niyi, a Nyanya resident said sarcastically.

Abuja city authorities have introduced the compulsory wearing of facemasks to curb the spread of the virus but not many are complying.

As such, violators of the stay-at-home or wear-facemasks order are dealt with by the state’s enforcement team in a mobile court fully staffed with a judge, lawyers and security operatives.

An Abuja Mobile Court sits at the popular AYA Bridge in Asokoro as defaulters of Covid-19 lockdown measures are tried and sentenced to pay fines or embark on community service./FCT Administration


This has made social life in the once bustling town almost non-existent as the fear of contacting the virus or being rounded up by enforcement teams keep people indoors. Some days, when the number of residents defying state orders are overwhelming, the officials remain helpless until there are more team members to assist them.

“If you don’t wear your face mask, the Police on the main roads will ask you to sit on the ground and embarrass you; so I always go about with my face mask, though the mask makes me feel like I’m suffocating sometimes” Jennifer Nkem, a restaurant owner said.

Aside the health benefits of wearing the masks, a new channel of business has been opened for tailors who now make facemasks using African fabrics or Ankara for sale, boosting an industry that has been on its knees since the pandemic and lockdown began across Nigeria.

Cecilia Godwin, a tailor who couldn’t contain her joy said “I like the compulsory mask wearing, it gave me a new source of income. I make and sell the Ankara facemasks for 100 naira to 200 naira each and market is moving well”.

A man carries bags of grains on his head wearing a compulsory facemask at Nyanya, a border town between Abuja and Nasarawa State on March 30, 2020 – (Photo by Kola SULAIMON / AFP)


– Strict lockdown enforcement –

Nyanya is one of the closest suburbs to Abuja city centre with a less than 10 kilometer commute hence it’s burgeoning population. It has not been particularly hard hit by Covid-19 infections but remains a top priority because it borders neighbouring states.

Most workers in the public and private sectors live here due to the cheap accommodation and low expenses but getting to their offices in the city has since become a nightmare as major roads become congested once it’s 6am.

With the partial lockdown currently in place, commuters in Nyanya still expect respite from the huge traffic gridlocks caused by frequently blocked road.

The border town to nearby Nasarawa State, is also affected by the ban on interstate movement making life tougher.

Ikharo Attah, head of the FCT Enforcement Team on COVID-19 lockdown, said there have been a strict compliance with the ban on movement in and out of the capital.

“We have turned back at least 20 vehicles including trucks conveying people into Abuja from various states. Abuja currently lacks enough facilities to quarantine people for 14days so it’s better they go back to their states and obey government orders”, Attah explained.

“We know it’s affecting essential service workers who need to come into Abuja daily, that’s the sad irony of the interstate ban but plans are ongoing to ease the entry from Nasarawa and Niger states”, Attah added.

City authorities have battled for weeks to ensure that Abuja reduces its Covid-19 infections. Successes are being recorded following the enforcement of measures like closure of markets, parks, gardens, shopping malls, ban on interstate movements and religious gatherings.

A couple of weeks ago, it was second on the national list of states with high numbers of infections but as at May 18, FCT-Abuja placed third with 418 infections and many patients discharged. Lagos State remains first with 2,550 infections and Kano state places second with 825 infections across Nigeria.

Abuja currently has about 1,000 Covid-19 bed spaces in 6 isolation and treatment centers scattered across the capital to tackle the virus while also enforcing its 8pm to 6am overnight curfew.

People wait as health workers prepare to take samples during a community COVID-19 coronavirus testing campaign in Abuja on April 15, 2020. – The Nigerian government commence search and sample collections of eligible cases as they struggle to contain the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic as cases rise in Nigeria amidst lockdown. (Photo by Kola Sulaimon / AFP)



– ‘It’s petty crimes’, Police say –

The Covid-19 lockdown has seen an increase in social vices due to loss of jobs and idleness at home by people who had in the recent past lived busy lives. Crime rate is on the rise but the Police say most reported crimes in Abuja are petty burgling and robberies.

Police spokesman in Abuja, Anjuguri Mamza told News Central that the capital is relatively calm as they have “deployed proactive crime fighting measures” while carrying out their lockdown enforcement duties.

“People may not be too comfortable with the whole enforcement process but we try to make them understand that the lockdown enforcement is for the good of all, considering where the world has found itself today” Mamza added.

While most Nyanya residents feel the heat of the Covid-19 pandemic due to enforcement measures by Abuja city authorities rather than a high infection rate, they remain hopeful that the measures are temporary and will be lifted once the rate of infections drop in affected areas within the capital.

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ECOWAS Gives Condition For Lifting Mali’s Sanction

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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will not lift economic sanctions it slammed on Mali following a coup five weeks ago, the bloc said on Friday.

ECOWAS had imposed strict sanctions, which aralysed the landlocked country’s economy, after the Aug. 18 coup that overthrew Ibrahim Boubacar Keita as president.

The 15-member regional bloc said the blockade will be lifted after a civilian prime minister has been nominated.

The sanctions “will be lifted when a civilian prime minister is named”, ECOWAS Commission President Jean-Claude Kassi Brou said on Friday.

The announcement came shortly after Mali’s new president, Colonel Bah N’Daou (retd), was sworn in at a ceremony in the capital Bamako

N’Daou, a former defence minister, was picked by the coup leader, Colonel Assimi Goita, to head a transitional government until elections are held.

The elections are expected to hold in 18 months.

N’daou, 70, took the oath of office in front of several hundred military officers, political leaders and diplomats. Col Goita was sworn in as vice president during a ceremony in the capital Bamako.

Speaking at the swearing-in ceremony, the new president said: “The charter is my guidebook.

“Mali has given me everything. I am happy to be its submissive slave, willing to do everything for it to return to full constitutional legality, with elected authorities, legitimate representatives.

“The transition period which begins will not dispute any international undertaking by Mali, nor the agreements signed by the government.”

N’daou, who also served as defence minister in 2014 and previously headed the air force, has been described by former colleagues as “principled”.

In his inaugural address, he said he would crack down on graft, one of the main complaints against Keita’s government, and stamp out abuses of civilians by the armed forces.

Besides fearing that the coup could undermine their own power, presidents in the wider Sahel region are concerned prolonged uncertainty could jeopardise a joint campaign against Islamist militants centred in northern and central Mali.

A previous coup in Mali in 2012 helped hasten the fall of the desert north to al Qaeda-linked militants, forcing a French intervention the following year to drive them back.

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U.S Claims $907M Aid to African Nations in 2020

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The U.S Secretary of State Michael Pompeo says the United States provided humanitarian assistance worth close to $907m to countries in Africa.

Pompeo, in a statement on Friday made available on the African Regional Media Hub, noted that the US provided nearly $152m to countries in the Sahel region as humanitarian assistance.

The countries in the Sahel region include Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Mali.

The U.S at the UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting also announced $108 million as humanitarian assistance for the people of South Sudan, and people of South Sudanese descent in neighboring countries.

Pompeo said the funding includes nearly $67 million from the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration as well as more than $85 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance.

Pompeo added that significant gaps in meeting humanitarian needs, in addition to environmental concerns such as major flooding across the region, were further heightened during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our assistance will provide critical protection, livelihoods, shelter, essential healthcare, emergency food assistance, safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene services for refugees, internally displaced people, and vulnerable host communities.

Pompeo is of the opinion that the United States remains the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance, both in the Sahel region and globally.

“We appreciate contributions from donors to date, but recognise the significant needs that remain and call on current and new donors to make new contributions or to fulfill existing pledges to make this life saving assistance possible.

Today at the UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting, `A Dialogue with the World’s Top Ten Donors on Global Humanitarian Needs’, hosted by the United States, we announced nearly $108 million in humanitarian assistance for the people of South Sudan, including South Sudanese in neighboring countries.

“This funding includes almost $97million from the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, and more than $11million from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance.

“It brings the total U.S. humanitarian assistance for response, including refugees and those affected by conflict and natural disasters, to nearly $907 million in Fiscal Year 2020 alone.

“… and close to $5.5 billion since the start of the crisis in 2014, including more than $64 million in supplemental humanitarian assistance to support the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the region,” Pompeo said.

He added that heavy rains, fighting between armed groups, food insecurity, a deteriorating economic situation, and the COVID-19 pandemic have all compounded an already dire humanitarian crisis in South Sudan.

The U.S. humanitarian assistance provided emergency food assistance, health care services, access to safe drinking water and sanitation, as well as assistance to survivors of gender-based violence in South Sudan.

According to him, U.S. humanitarian assistance also provides life-saving activities to the nearly 2.2 million South Sudanese refugees in neighboring countries, most of whom are women and children, and to local host communities sheltering refugees.

He said the U.S. also provided country-wide support for the UN Humanitarian Air Service to transport humanitarian workers and relief supplies.

The secretary of state said that in the response to the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan, the U.S. “supports the operations of a network of nearly 30 non-governmental organisations, including faith-based organisations, and international organisations.”

He listed some of the organisations supported by the U.S. government as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Children’s Fund, and the World Food Programme.

Others are he identified are the International Organisation for Migration, and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Pompeo said the U.S. remained the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance, both in South Sudan and globally.

`We will continue to be catalyst for international response to alleviate the suffering of the people of South Sudan.

“We appreciate contributions from donors to date but recognise the significant needs that remain and call on current and new donors to make new contributions or to fulfill existing pledges to make this life saving,” Pompeo said.

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BREAKING: Mali Transition President Bah N’daou Sworn In

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Mali’s has a new president five weeks after the overthrow of Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta.

Former Defence Minister Bah Ndaou, aged 70, was hand picked by the coup leader, Colonel Assimi Goita, to head a transitional government until elections, which are expected in 18 months.

Same Col. Goita will be his vice-president.

The appointment of a civilian president is a condition for the Economic Community of West African States – ECOWAS – to lift the sanctions it imposed after the coup.

ECOWAS considers the appointment of Mali’s interim president and vice president a step towards normalising life in the country after the recent coup.

The head of ECOWAS Delegation and former Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, disclosed this on Friday in Mali.

The military junta responsible for the coup in Mali, earlier this week appointed former Defence Minister Ba N’Daou as the transition president and Col. Assimi Goita as vice president.

They will both serve for 18 months before a new government is established.

“Ahead of Friday’s scheduled inauguration of the leaders of Mali’s transition government, the Ecowas mediation team today met with some stakeholders including Mr. Bah Ndaou, President-Designate and Col. Assimi Goita, President of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) and Vice President-Designate, both of who will be taking the oath of office at the official ceremony.

“We are optimistic that this event will signal the beginning of the return to normalcy in Mali,” Goodluck Jonathan had written on Twitter on Thursday.

On Aug. 18, the military coup in Mali played out near the capital of Bamako and resulted in resignation of then – President Ibrahim Keita and his government.

The coup leaders established the CNSP, a governing body, until the transition government takes power.

Earlier in September, the 15-nation ECOWAS bloc urged the junta to appoint members of government for a transitional period until Sept. 23, saying it would otherwise impose a full embargo on the country.

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