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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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Politics

Court orders rearrest of Lesotho ex-first lady in murder trial

Maesaiah Thabane is suspected of orchestrating the shooting of Lipolelo Thabane, who was gunned down outside her home in the capital Maseru.

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Former Prime Minister of Lesotho, Thomas Thabane (L) and his wife Maesaiah Thabane sit at the Magistrate Court in Maseru, Lesotho, on February 24, 2020. AFP

Lesotho’s Court of Appeal has ordered the rearrest of former first lady Maesaiah Thabane after revoking her bail on murder charges over the killing of her husband’s estranged wife in 2017.

The 42-year-old was charged in February after police quizzed her on the brutal murder of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s wife two days before his inauguration.

She spent one night in jail, after which Lesotho’s High Court freed her on a 1,000 maloti ($57) bail, according to AFP.

“The decision… is set aside and the bail petition is remitted back to the High Court to be determined by a different judge,” Court of Appeal president Kananelo Mosito ruled on Friday.

Police said Maesaiah Thabane would be arrested and handed over to correctional service officials later on Friday.

“As soon as we get the written judgement… we will arrest her,” deputy police commissioner Paseka Mokete told AFP.

Maesaiah Thabane is suspected of orchestrating the shooting of Lipolelo Thabane, who was gunned down outside her home in the capital Maseru.

Police have also charged her for the attempted murder of Lipolelo Thabane’s friend Thato Sibolla, who was wounded at the scene.

Lipolelo and Thomas Thabane, now 81, had been embroiled in bitter divorce proceedings when the 48-year-old was killed.

The former prime minister agreed to step down in January after police linked his mobile number to communication records from the crime scene.

He officially resigned this month, bowing to pressure from his rivals who accused him of hampering investigations into Lipolelo’s death.

Thabane has denied any involvement in the murder.

His wife initially went into hiding after police first called her in to testify in January.

She has not yet been allowed to respond to the charges.

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Politics

Niger passes new wire-tapping law to fight terrorism despite opposition

The opposition decried “the will of those in power to deprive Nigeriens… of all privacy in their communications.”

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Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou

Niger’s parliament has adopted a new legislation authorising wiretapping as a means of curbing “terrorism and transnational criminality”, brushing off an opposition protest walkout.

The new law permits “research of information” which notably may “threaten state security” or “prevent the fight against terrorism and organised transnational crime” in a country large swathes of which are in thrall to jihadist conflict, an AFP report said Friday.

Opposition parties are concerned that the country’s constitution holds that “secrecy of correspondence and of communications is inviolable”.

Under the new law, “obtained proofs can be used in investigations and criminal prosecutions initiated by judicial authorities, “with communications intercepted by “competent technical services” who will target “any person against whom there are serious reasons” to proceed.

Barkai Issouf, minister overseeing relations with institutions, insisted that “this law is not a threat to liberty. It is indispensable and emanates form the government’s wish to secure our people”.

Justice Minister Marou Amadou played down the move, saying: “You feared being listened in on? Well, you were before and you still are — only now it will be organised.”

In a statement, the opposition decried “the will of those in power to deprive Nigeriens… of all privacy in their communications.”

It added “this law will allow surveillance of all Nigeriens, as well as all those who live in Niger under the false pretexts” of maintaining security and fighting terrorism.

Niger has endured repeated unrest in its west near its borders with Mali and Burkina Faso from rival jihadi groups as well as in its southeast from Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa, a breakaway group from Boko Haram.

There have been several recent incursions including a massacre in which 20 people were massacred earlier this month.

In the same immense and unstable region of Tillaberi, which covers 100,000 square kilometres (40,000 square miles) and runs into the three-border area of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali, three attacks on the army since December left 174 soldiers dead, according to an official report.

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East Africa Politics News

Court sets Tanzanian opposition leader free despite being guilty for sedition

In a written order setting out conditions for Kabwe’s discharge, Magistrate Huruma Shaidi said Kabwe should commit no seditious offence for a period of one year, and if he did, he would be liable to be sentenced for the offence.

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Zitto Kabwe, local lawmaker and head of ACT Wazalendo party.

A Tanzanian opposition leader found guilty of sedition and incitement on accusations that he falsely said some 100 people were killed in clashes between herders and police in his home region in 2018 was on Friday set free by a Dar es Salaam court.

Zitto Kabwe, a local lawmaker and head of ACT Wazalendo party was set free on condition that he refrain from saying or writing anything that would be considered sedition to the government.

Kabwe, who is member of parliament for Kigoma urban constituency, in western Tanzania, was charged in November 2018 with three counts related to incitement after saying that 100 people were killed in clashes between herders and police in the region, a Reuters report said.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

At the time, the head of police in Kigoma said just two herdsmen and two officers had died during an operation to stop pastoralists keeping livestock illegally on a government-owned ranch.

Huruma Shaidi, principal magistrate of Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s court in Dar es Salaam, said he found Kabwe guilty on all three counts.

In a written order setting out conditions for Kabwe’s discharge, Shaidi said Kabwe should commit no seditious offence for a period of one year, and if he did, he would be liable to be sentenced for the offence.

Kabwe’s defence lawyers said they were going to appeal the verdict.

“Zitto Kabwe is a politician and we are in the elections period, we are going to appeal this ruling to clear him,” Jebra Kambole, Kabwe’s lead counsel, told reporters outside the court.

Kabwe split away from the main opposition CHADEMA movement in 2015 and is now his party’s only lawmaker.

The East African country has been one of the continent’s most stable, but opposition leaders and rights groups have accused the government of cracking down on dissent – an accusation it dismisses.

Tanzania is expected to hold presidential, parliamentary and local government elections in October.

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