Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia
Vehicular movements in and out of Abia State ceased on Sunday as the state government shut all entry and exit points and ramps up measures to keep COVID-19 out of God’s own state.
The boundary closure, which became effective at exactly 4.00am on Sunday, was ordered by the state Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, following the recommendation of the state’s Inter-ministerial Committee on COVID-19.
Abia shares boundaries with seven states — Imo, Ebonyi, Enugu, Anambra, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River.
The state Commissioner for information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, said that the COVID-19 Committee deemed it necessary to recommend closing of boundaries “based on situational reviews” of the pandemic.
The implication of this measure is that movement of vehicles in and out of Abia has ceased till further notice and all Abia residents currently out of the state have been advised to stay at their locations till further notice.
“Security agencies, traditional rulers and community youths in the state are to ensure total compliance with this directive and take all necessary measures including total blocking of the borders till further notice,” Kalu said.
The information commissioner emphasized that no efforts should be spared “towards stopping those that might attempt to sneak into the state either at night or at dawn till further notice”.
Traditional rulers and security agencies were further charged with the task of “ensuring that those identified to have returned from Lagos, Abuja and overseas are confined to their homes in isolation for at least 14 days”.
Meanwhile, the entire Abia State would experience total lockdown as from Wednesday as all markets would be closed and transportation grounded to a halt for a period of four weeks at the first instance, subject to weekly reviews.
To prepare for the forthcoming lockdown, Governor Okezie has approved the setting up of a food security sub committee to plan necessary palliative interventions in case of a prolonged lockdown. The five-member committee is headed by the Commissioner for Information, Kalu.
The immediate and full enforcement of the previous guidelines on social distancing should be implemented by security agencies with defaulters handed over to mobile courts for further action.
It expressed “particular concern” over the partial compliance by tricycle (Keke) operators, who were directed to carry not more than two passengers at a time.
To check this flagrant disobedience by keke operators, security agents were directed to henceforth apprehend any defaulter for trial by a mobile court.
“Abians and residents are strongly advised against non essential movements within and outside the state. We also encourage Abians who are currently outside the state to remain at those locations pending full containment of the rampaging pandemic,” the statement said.
A task force was set up at both state and local government levels to enforce the guidelines hitherto issued to all establishments in the state, particularly hotels, eateries and restaurants.
The task force teams are headed at the state level by the Commissioner for Environment, Dr Solomon Ogunji, and at the council areas by the transition committee chairmen and divisional police officers (DPOs).
Their mandate is to shut down immediately any establishment that fails to comply with previous guidelines on COVID-19 containment.