Several motor parks in Lagos have enforced the physical distancing and use of face masks, a directive by the state government to curb the spread of coronavirus in the state.
When PREMIUM TIMES visited some designated bus parks across the state, a strict compliance with physical distancing and use of face masks was observed, while other directives such as regular disinfection, and temperature checks were flouted.
The buses loaded two passengers in a row, as against the usual four, and passengers were not allowed to form clusters at the entrance of the vehicle.
Passengers also had their face masks, those without one were turned back.
“You cannot enter, go and buy one face mask, it is only N50,” a bus conductor screamed at a defaulter.
“I have my handkerchief here, I’ll use that,” the passenger said calmly in response.
“E be like say you no dey hear, how much you wan pay me that you go allow task force arrest me? Ehn… Answer na. I dey tell you to buy face mask, you dey talk something else. Abeg, comot, let better passengers enter,” the conductor shouted at the passenger.
Ahmed Olayiwola, a bus driver at Oshodi park, who loads passengers to Bariga said loading two passengers per row is made compulsory and buses that carry more than the stipulated number will be arrested by the Task Force of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW).
“This is a new era now,” Mr Olayiwola said.
“If the union seize your bus, you will pay before you get it back. I don’t allow people without face masks to enter my bus as well, they arrest us for that too,” he added.
Babajide Sanwo-Olu @jidesanwoolu
Transportation is a critical part of our plan in #EasingTheLockdown and to reduce the risk of contagion, all commuters must wear masks, wash hands with soap, water and sanitise with alcohol based sanitiser. Vehicles, parks and garages must be sanitised regularly and continuously.
Babajide Sanwo-Olu @jidesanwoolu
#EasingTheLockdown: All buses must be loaded at 60% capacity. In practical terms, if seating capacity is 10, only 6 people are allowed. Transport operators/companies must have handwashing equipment with running water and soap. Social distancing is also required while queuing up.
While announcing transportation guidelines during the easing of the lockdown, the Lagos State governor said all commuters are mandated to wear face masks at all times, and their hands cleaned with with alcohol-based sanitizer or soap and running water before and after every trip.
Mr Sanwo-Olu said the guidelines would help reduce the risk of contagion of the virus.
“All transport operators/companies are expected to sanitize their vehicles, parks and garages regularly and continuously at least before and after every trip.
“All Transport Operators/Companies are expected to have at the entrance of the respective parks hand washing equipment with running water, and deploy temperature readers to test every passenger before boarding,” he said.
The governor added that all operators are expected to have alcohol-based sanitizers in their vehicles for drivers, conductors and passengers.
Motor parks and garages in the state are reflected to avoid overcrowding, while all buses should be loaded to a maximum of 60 per cent of full capacity.
Out of all of these guidelines outlined by the governor, motor parks and bus drivers followed the 60 per cent maximum loading capacity and the use of face masks to the left, while other guidelines including regular disinfection, and temperature checks were disregarded.
‘We Can’t Force Passengers’
PREMIUM TIMES reporter observed that many bus parks in Lagos have provision for handwashing and hand sanitizing but none was effective at the parks.
At Berger Park, a giant container of water and liquid soap was placed at one side of the park but only a few people, mostly bus drivers, go there to wash their hands.
Within 15 minutes of watching how frequently people wash their hands, only three people approached the point during this period, out of which two were bus drivers and one, an elderly female passenger.
The location of the water and soap was not visible to many passengers, but the park leaders said passengers are aware that there is water and soap to wash their hands.
Akinola Idowu, the Second Vice Chairperson of the Berger park, said people cannot be forced to wash their hands.
“Our passengers know that we have provided water and soap for washing of hands, those that want to wash their hands will go there and those that do not want to will enter the bus, we cannot force people to wash their hands.”
Mr Idowu said the only thing mandatory is the use of face masks and buses not carrying more than two passengers in a row.
Alaba Omolaye, the chairman of New Garage Unit, Odi Olowo, Ojuwoye local government area told PREMIUM TIMES that his men work tirelessly to ensure compliance to all the directives of the government.
“We have water and soap for people to wash their hands, we have hand sanitisers at this park, one for bus drivers and one for passengers,” Mr Omolaye said, ordering one of his underlings to start giving all passengers hand sanitiser.
At Oshodi- Ajah bus park at Oshodi, the loading capacity and use of face masks were complied with.
The Vice-chairman of the park, Kunle Akinleye, said they have made adequate provisions to keep people safe during the pandemic, but many passengers do not see the need to wash their hands and many are compelled to use face masks.
Mr Akinleye at Oshodi- Ajah park said no provision for regular disinfection was made and parks cannot be disinfected by drivers.
“How do we disinfect parks regularly when we don’t even have what to use to disinfect?”
A union leader at Berger Park, who declined to state his name, said some of the guidelines were not realistic.
“Tell me, how do you test people’s temperature in a park like Berger or even Oshodi? You know the number of people that come here every day? Did the government provide those that will do the test? Or is it drivers and conductors that should do them?”
He said those can only be achieved at government-owned parks and not public parks.
A bus driver at Oshodi Park, Akeem Kadejo, said he was unaware that each bus should provide alcohol-based sanitizers for passengers.
“All I know is our parks have hand sanitizers, we use it and wash our hands regularly. Many passengers also carry their hand sanitizers around,” he said.
Efforts to reach the Commissioner for Transportation in the state, Frederick Oladeinde, were unsuccessful as his line was unavailable.