Traders with sad faces lined the front entrances of the Wuse market and the UTC market in Area 10, Garki, Abuja, on Tuesday, following the closure of the markets by authorities.
PREMIUM TIMES observed that the entrances into both markets were locked Tuesday afternoon and heavily guarded by a contingent of police officers, soldiers, civil defence and other members of the joint task force.
The Federal Capital Territory Administration said the markets will be shut for three days for failing to comply with COVID-19 protocols thereby violating the COVID-19 Health Protection Regulations 2021 recently approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.
On Monday, the Guardian Newspaper reported that an Abuja mobile court ordered the shutting down of Wuse Market, UTC market and Murg shopping mall for violating the presidential directive on COVID-19.
The court also convicted about 100 persons who were arrested by the enforcement team for not wearing face masks in public places, the report said.
President Buhari on January 26 signed the COVID-19 Health Protection Regulations 2021 policy.
The law has five sections which include: Restrictions on Gatherings; 1) Operations of Public Places; 2) Mandatory Compliance with Treatment Protocols; 3) Offences and Penalties; 4) Enforcement and Application; and 5) Interpretation and Citation.
The FCTA ratified the presidential directive three days ago, with a directive by FCT minister authorising security agencies to arrest anyone violating the guidelines.
The court order directing the closure of the markets was pasted at each of the entrance gates of the Wuse and UTC markets.
“Upon hearing the application of Umanah. U, prosecuting council, praying this honorable court for an order sealing off the establishment known as UTC Complex in Area 10, Garki Abuja for non-compliance with COVID-19 protocols and upon being satisfied that the establishment is in violation of part 2 of the Health Protection Regulation 2021
“It is hereby ordered that the establishment… be sealed off for three days pending compliance with COVID-19 protocols”, the court order pasted in one of the gates at the UTC market read.
Some of the traders whose businesses were affected by the directive were not happy with the order.
Ifeanyi Ezeh, who specializes on making award plaques at UTC, said it is customers that normally violate the protocols.
“In this market, we always make sure we maintain COVID-19 safety, we urge or our customers to do the same but sometimes they don’t comply. Shutting down businesses in the middle of the week will really amount to losses,” Mr Ezeh said.
Ifeanyi Orji, a phone seller at the Wuse market, said they were not given prior notice before the market was shut.
But the Head, Media and Enlightenment of FCTA COVID-19 enforcement team, Ikharo Attah, said the situation at the markets was intolerable.
“The presidential regulations specifically said that management of public business facilities should take full responsibility of enforcement of the COVID-19 regulations, but these markets defaulted in all aspects”, the official said.
He noted that the market and plazas disregarded the guidelines and did not make provision for the health safety requirements.
According to him, the court had said the shutdown order could only be vacated when the management of the facilities comply with the regulations.
Meanwhile, the GSM village, another popular market in Abuja, was not among the markets shut.
As of Tuesday noon, the market was open and receiving customers.
One of the traders there said the government did not shut the market because it maintains all necessary COVID-19 directives.
Abuja authorities go tough
Since early December, there has been an increase in reported cases and deaths from COVID-19 in Nigeria.
Abuja is the most impacted city by the coronavirus in Nigeria, after Lagos.
Out of the over 131,000 COVID-19 infections in Nigeria, about 16,000 were found in the FCT.
About 127 people have died from the disease in the capital city, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) announced on Monday night.
Following a stakeholders meeting on Friday, authorities in Abuja vowed to go hard in enforcing the presidential directives on COVID-19 to curb the spread of the disease.
At the meeting chaired by the FCT minister, Muhammad Bello, it was resolved that erring corporate organisations will be sanctioned through the mobile court system.
While it was noted that commercial transportation is one of the major modes of transmitting the disease, it was resolved that all road transport unions will be engaged to ensure strict enforcement of the provisions of the regulations.
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