Two weeks into the gradual easing of lockdown in Lagos State and controlled opening of businesses, the hustling and bustling of Lagos markets remain unchanged, as traders and consumers continue daily activities without regard to the contagious COVID-19.
At the usually overcrowded markets, people kept brushing past one another and crowds gathered around different traders as they haggled for prices. Not only was there no social distancing, many buyers and sellers did not put on face masks or hands gloves.
Monsurat Oladele, a shoe seller at Oluwole Market, Lagos Island, attributed the high population to the opening pattern of the markets.
“You know the markets will not open tomorrow, so, many people come the days the market open.”
“It is impossible to control crowd in the market, even the governed knows this, even many educated people, once they enter the market, they drop coronavirus mentality at the bus stop and come and buy whatever they want to buy,” Mrs Oladele said in the Yoruba language.
She said those that believe that COVID-19 can be contracted in the markets will not bother coming to the markets and rather buy goods online or send vendors. To her, the market is an invincible region for COVID-19.
Uche Solomon, a trader selling travelling bags at Balogun market, told PREMIUM TIMES that many of them are immune to the virus and that they cannot be sure the virus is even real.
“This is market, it is not possible for social distancing to be followed, see as people plenty for this market, how on earth will expect them to practise social distancing,” Mr Solomon said.
Regulation On Market Operation
As part of the regulations of the state government on the gradual easing of the lockdown, markets in the states are directed to operate on alternate days.
During the briefing of Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Lagos state governor on May 3, food markets are to open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, while other markets dealing with other items are to open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
This directive is part of the measures to control the spread of COVID-19 in Lagos State.
“All open markets and stores will be allowed to operate on alternate days between the hours of 9am and 3pm. Market and stores seeking food items will open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, while markets and stores along other items, excluding food, will open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, ” Mr Sanwo-Olu said.
He added that the use of face masks and physical distancing must be enforced in markets.
Compliance to the state’s directive
While the major non-food markets in Lagos including Computer Village, Balogun Market, Mandilas, and Oluwole Markets have complied with the directive of the government on the days they should trade, food markets have continued to operate on all days.
When PREMIUM Times visited, Balogun and Oluwole markets on a Tuesday, most shops in the market were shut, except few shops taking the delivery of goods.
Men and women loitered around the markets calling in passers-by.
“Sister, what do you want? Women clothes, Jeans, bags, slippers, hair weavons and attachment.”
“Brother I have men wears, jeans, travelling bags, shoes, wristwatches,” the shouted out to male passers-by.
When PREMIUM TIMES approached Ramon Yisa, one of the traders, he said goods can be sold covertly despite that the market is not opened.
“You might not get some of the things you want to buy because shops are not opening today. But tell me what you want to buy, I can take you to where you will get it,” he said.
Oyingbo, Mile 12 markets
Food markets in Lagos operate differently from the pattern stipulated by the government. Buyers are sellers engage in business on a daily basis, despite the regulation of trading days.
At Mile 12 market on Wednesday, the market was normal, full of life and activities. Miles away from the markets, buyers are seen carrying their goods on their heads, walking to the nearest bus stops.
“It is true, they told us not to come to the market on Mondays and Wednesdays, but you know we cannot sit at home, the disobedient ones among us will still come” a garri seller at Mile 12 told PREMIUM TIMES.
The market was full of traders and buyers and everywhere looked like a normal market day, PREMIUM TIMES observed.
Although, the main gate of the market was shut other gates were left open for trucks to offload food items.
Despite the closure of the main gate, buyers and sellers gained entrance into the market through the opened gates, while many restricted their trading to outside the market.
“Food is essential, we have been coming to the markets all these while, we open every day,” another trader said in denial of the government’s directive.
No physical distancing was observed in the market, although many people had their face masks on.
“There is nothing like coronavirus, or maybe there is no virus in the market, it cannot even come here,” Ramat Alabi, a pepper seller boasted.
She said if the virus was as real as they claimed, there would have been several reports of known people contracting it.
At Oyingbo market, business continued as usual as traders display their goods at the roadside, causing traffic gridlock in the axis.
“I am busy, as you can see, this is a busy market, many people come here to buy on a daily basis and resell in other small markets,” a vegetable seller snapped at PREMIUM TIMES reporter.
The traders carried out their trading activities, against the directive of the government with no disturbance.
State Government’s reaction
Gbenga Omotosho, the Lagos State Commissioner For Information and Strategy, told PREMIUM TIMES that markets in Lagos are well organised and have complied to the directive to a large extent, except for few disobedient traders.
“From what I have seen, they have complied, because these are very organised people. The Iyalojas and Babalojas (market leaders) were briefed before the governor made the pronouncement and they were in support. I have seen that they have been complying.
“The thing about Mile 12 is that it is an International market, people keep on coming in, so every time you will find activities in the market. At times, they may not be selling but they will be offloading,” Mr Omotosho said.
“Dealing with human beings is very difficult, especially when it comes to things they are used to doing and suddenly tell them not to do them.”