By John Shiklam
There was panic buying as business and commercial activities resumed on Thursday in Kaduna following the temporary suspension of the 24-hour curfew imposed by the state government to stop the spread of the dreaded coronavirus in the state.
The state government had on Wednesday announced the suspension of the curfew till 12 midnight on Thursday.
In the rush to re-stock food and other basic necessities, residents trooped to banks and markets to make purchases amidst soaring prices.
The crowd in the banks and ATM terminals were unprecedented with long queues, making it difficult for many people to make withdrawals.
During THISDAY’s visit to several commercial banks in Kaduna South metropolis, it observed long queues in various banks waiting to make withdrawals.
In all the branches of Access Bank, UBA, IBTC Bank, Polaris Bank, GTBank, Unity Bank and Zenith Bank visited by THISDAY, only three or four people were allowed into the banking hall at a time.
The situation was the same at the various ATM terminals as very long queues of people were seen waiting to make withdrawals.
It was not likely that the banks were able to attend to the crowd before the close of work.
The curfew is expected to resumed by 12 midnight on Thursday, according to the state government.
It was observed that while hand sanitizers were used at the entrance of banking halls, ATM machines were being used without hand sanitizers.
Some of those who spoke with THISDAY expressed their disappointment with the banks for not taking adequate steps to attend to them.
A customer of UBA branch along Kachia road, Kakuri, Mrs. Esther Paul, said: “I came to the bank as early as 7:30 am, but we were refused entry into the banking hall. They said only four people would be allowed into the bank and that we should queue up.
“I have been on the queue for more than four hours now without being attended to because the bank workers were only attending to the people they know.
“If I don’t withdraw money today, me and family will not have food to eat when the curfew resuming on Friday.”
Many others said they will not be able to stay at home without having food.
An official of the UBA branch, who pleaded anonymity, however explained that they received directives to allow only four people at a time in the banking hall.
“We are acting on directives from our headquarters not to allow more than four people into the banking hall and we ensure that hand sanitizer is administered on anyone coming in.
“The large crowd you see is because some of the customers refused to be given ATM cards. They don’t want to pay for the monthly N50 charges for the card. We understand the difficulties they are going through and we are doing our best to attend to every customer as time permits,” he said.
Prices of food items in the market has also skyrocketed as traders lamented poor patronage and the losses suffered in the past seven days since the state was on lockdown.
For instance, at the popular station market, a kilo of meat now costs N1,500 instead of N1,200, three tubers of yam costs between N4,000 and N4,500, a bag of rice costs N24,000 from N21,500.
The curfew is expected to resume by 12 midnight on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has commiserated with Nigerians over the various effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement on Thursday by its convener, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, the forum noted the efforts of governments at containing the spread of the virus, saying: “The nation should have been better prepared to deal with it.”
The statement commended individuals and corporate bodies that have made major contributions towards managing the effects of the pandemic and reducing hardships.
“We also commend the restraint and discipline of Nigerians who have heeded the instructions and advice of the authorities to adopt measures that have greatly limited their abilities to pursue legitimate livelihoods as well as their freedom,” NEF said.