Traders at the Wuse and UTC markets in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja have expressed shock over the closure of the markets in the early hours of Tuesday by agents of the Federal Capital Territory Administration for violating COVID-19 protocols.
While many expressed worries that their wares were perishable, others put the blame for the close of the market on the management of the three markets for failing to put adequate safety measures in place.
Magistrate Idayat Akanni, the presiding judge of a mobile court in the nation’s capital had on Monday ordered the sealing of Wuse market, UTC shopping complex and Murg Shopping Plaza both at Area 10 for three days after the three markets were found to have violated COVID-19 Health Protection Regulations Act, 2021.
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Jan. 26, signed the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Health Protection Regulations 2021 in the exercise of the powers conferred upon him by Section 4 of the Quarantine Act, Cap. Q2, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2010 and all other powers enabling him.
The regulations will serve the urgent need to protect the health and wellbeing of Nigerians in the face of widespread and rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria.
The visibly worried traders who were seen milling around the main entrance of the three markets in an interview with HumAngle lamented that the closure of the markets would affect their businesses negatively as they were caught by it unawares.
Bashir Abdullahi, a butcher at Wuse market, said he was not allowed to pass through the main gate to open his shop and bring out the meat he left untreated the previous day.
According to him, it would be rotten in a matter of hours.
“I was in the market until 6:00 pm yesterday and no one told me about the shutdown,” Abdullahi said.
The butcher added that he “only came this morning and found the market closed.”
Abdullahi said some butchers had already slaughtered cows and goats and they have nowhere to take the meat to sell.
Two other traders near him were also worried about the shutdown saying that will not only affect not only their businesses at the market but also their families at home.
“We just came out of a lockdown and here is another shutdown. You know that will affect any family man,” one of them lamented.
HumAngle asked the traders whether there was any communication from the management of the market and both of them said they received none.
Although the market was closed due to noncompliance with COVID-19 protocols, HumAngle observed that many traders in front of the markets were still not observing the protocols.
People were seen congested in one place with the face masks dragged to the chins instead of covering their noses and mouths.
Traders Blame Market Authorities
HumAngle learnt that the management of the affected markets was charged to court by FCTA COVID-19 Enforcement team which said the situation in the market was intolerable.
According to Ihkaro Attah, the Head, Media and Enlightenment of the enforcement team, the market disregarded the guidelines and did not make provision for the health safety requirements.
“In all the properties sealed there were no thermometers to check temperatures, no water for customers to wash their hands and no sanitiser,” Attah had told journalists after the court ruling on Monday.
He said, “the task force has carried out massive advocacy across the city prior to the commencement of the enforcement of executive order in the city.”
A florist who identified herself as Mrs Patrick told HumAngle that the enforcement team warned the management of the UTC Shopping Centre about the nonchalant attitude to the observance of COVID-19 protocols.
She said the Enforcement Team was at the market and the officials “checked for water and soap and they found out that there was none.”
According to her, the officials came again and found out that marketers were neither observing social distance nor wearing face masks.
Another market woman who spoke on the condition of anonymity told HumAngle that the market management didn’t care to ensure strict compliance of the COVID-19 protocols.
Market Management Working To Comply With Court Order
Addressing the anxious traders through a megaphone, Abubakar Dangaladis, the Secretary-General of the Wuse Market Traders Association said the traders should go back home till further notice.
According to him, the management of the market had already begun communicating with the enforcement agency to see how the market would be reopened.
“What happened was so saddening and so painful. Our market was shut because of face mask,” he told a horde of traders who crowded around him.
He appealed to the traders to wear their face masks and observe all COVID-19 protocols as the market may possibly open tomorrow (Wednesday).
A copy of the court order pasted on the entrance of the UTC shopping complex stated that the shutdown would last for three days or pending the compliance with COVID-19 protocols.
According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Abuja has the second-highest cases of COVID-19 after Lagos State. It currently has 16,913 confirmed cases, 5,794 on and 10,992 discharged.
A total of 127 COVID-19 related deaths have been recorded in the FCT as of Tuesday, Feb. 1.
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