Abia is one of the states in the country that has continued to be on total lockdown since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria.
Now, the Abia State Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu insists that despite the clashes between security operatives and civilians, his government won’t back down on the total lockdown.
In this telephone interview with Editor-in-chief of Jungle Journalist Media Limited, Kalu enunerates the dangers of relaxing the lockdown, and the challenges facing the state in the wake of the pandemic:
There have been cases of clashes between security operatives clashing with civilians, leading to death. This has been the case in states like Abia, Anambra and Delta where there is total lockdown. Don’t you think the total lockdown is endangering your citizens?
The fact is that we need to lock down to prevent people from coming into our state. We are surrounded by seven states,and among the seven, five have COVID 19 cases. As we speak now, we are chasing down somebody that came into our state from a neighbouring state for testing. The guy is running. We are using DSS and every apparatus to look for him. We have declared him wanted because we need to test him.
You should be aware of the fact that this thing does not have legs. It can only move into our state from another state. It is more important for us to prevent it from coming, but even during this lockdown, we are continuing to show human face.
Apart from the palliative we are distributing, we are allowing people a window to shop. Again, we are opening the state tomorrow and next tomorrow for them to shop. We are returning to an indefinite shutdown from Monday.
We are not happy to be doing all these,but we are doing it because we care about our people and their health.
Now with regards to the clashes, let me start with the one that happened at Uratta this morning.
A group of unidentified persons, a keke man was carrying passengers in this lockdown. He was caught by the police and quickly, a group of unidentified persons started spreading rumours that the man was dead. The young man is alive and was taken into custody with his keke, I will soon release his picture.
Then, those unidentified persons attacked police after they had spread rumours that the man was dead.
It was in the process of the attack that the second police patrol van arrived and was also attacked, and they shot somebody, and the person died. That was very unfortunate. People should stop attacking armed police men. On the one that happened yesterday, we are fully investigating, because we don’t believe there was any basis to shoot that unarmed civilian.
We are talking to security agents in the state to see how we can end this confrontations and shooting.
But our people will do well to remain indoors during the lockdown, please.
Don’t you think in order to save lives, our security operatives should start using rubber bullets and stop the use of live ammunition?
When you attack a police officer, he has the right to self defense. Let us discourage our people from from attacking pokice officers, and let us encourage our people to stay locked down till we rise through this thing. Abians did not bring Covid 19 to Nigeria but if we don’t protect them, they will be at the recieving end. Look at our market like Ariaria. Imagine if that thing enters there. Imagine where it enters Ngwa Road. Imagine the number of deaths we will have. Look at the Kano situation. Two days before, Kano had just one case and suddenly they have 20.
And you can easily bet that they will keep increasing because one person can infect so many people.
Kano is on lockdown now.
Our problem in Abia is that, while the federal government says there’s a lockdown in Abuja and Lagos, people keep escaping from those areas into Abia. People are going back with luxurious buses, how do they move from there to Abia? Delta, Edo, Anambra are all on lockdown, how do they get to these places.
If the federal government has tackled the lockdown properly from the beginning, especially the borders, we don’t be battling here to lock down. They are not supporting those states to shut their borders too, which is wrong. If they close their borders, they will ensure that this thing does not spread.