Curfew: "Police will soon come up with a position" – PPRO says as Lagosians express fear ahead of May 4

President Muhammadu Buhari's order that the one month lockdown in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun States will be gradually eased from Monday May 4, 2020, has continued to evoke mixed reactions from Nigerians.

Buhari in his broadcast on Monday night ordered the gradual relaxation of lockdown and told Nigerians to strictly ensure the mandatory use of face masks or coverings in public in addition to maintaining physical distancing and personal hygiene.

He added that there will be curfew in FCT, Lagos and Ogun from 8pm – 6am daily while the lockdown is relaxed.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in a series of tweets on Sunday also announced that compulsory wearing of face masks in the state will begin in order to curb the spread of the virus.

"We are kicking off #MaskUpLagos; the COMPULSORY wearing of face masks in Lagos. Face masks help to protect us from droplets and secretions from coughing, sneezing, etc. as not everyone that is infected will show symptoms," Sanwo-Olu said.

The announcement has sparked a series of reactions and debates on the internet as citizens expressed fear while some received the news with excitement after one month of lockdown

While many are scared of returning to the streets over fear of contracting COVID-19, some are sacred of security operatives who will be enforcing the use of face masks and the curfew imposed by the president.

They cited the brutal way security operatives across the country enforced the lockdown order which led to the deaths of many Nigerians and said they are afraid the enforcement of the curfew may take a worse dimension.

Lagos is famous for its notorious traffic and residents spend as much as two to three hours commuting from their work place to their homes daily. The 8pm set for the commencement of the curfew is a period when many are always trapped in traffic while returning to their homes on major highways like the third mainland bridge, Lagos-Abeokuta expressway, and Lagos-Ibadan expressway.

Many residents have argued that the traffic situation in Lagos will trap many on the road beyond 8pm and make them victims of exploitation by security operatives who will enforce the curfew.

A popular Twitter user with handle @OluniyiGates tweeted: "Businesses in Lagos are enjoined to close by 6pm, but curfew begins at 8pm. Trust the Nigerian police to accost you in Yaba by 9pm after spending 3 hours in 3MB traffic and tell you to pay because you're breaking curfew."

A Twitter user wrote: "Buhari placing curfew by 8pm is basically just telling Armed robbers, Nigeria police & the army force that once it's 8pm start harassing, extorting and shoot any citizen found outside. Also bear in mind that 8pm in Lagos alone is rush hour & grid lock. Please stay safe out there."

"I hope by this time business owners (especially Lagos) have realised that during the curfew, working hours should be strictly between 9am to 5pm or 10am to 4pm to give members of staff room for transit, to avoid enriching police officers who will want to exploit commuters," another user with the handle @ethelmba wrote.

Jude Egbas said he believes the time of the curfew needs to be adjusted putting into consideration the traffic of the city.

"There's no curfew in Lagos that should start from 8pm to 6am. That's a recipe for chaos and for corruption from the police. At 8pm, most Lagosians are just being ushered into traffic. We set out at 4am to beat traffic," he tweeted.

"I think @jidesanwoolu has to fashion out what works for Lagos, given its peculiarity. Midnight to 3am would be more like it. Buhari doesn't understand how we roll."

The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Lagos State Police Command, Bala Elkana, in a telephone interview with Neusroom, said the Command will soon announce its position on how it wiill enforce the curfew.

"I don't want to speak on next week yet, when the Command comes up with a position, I will issue a statement that will serve as a guide," Elkana told Neusrooom.

On the enforcement of the use of face masks, the PPRO said the Command will vigorously implement government's directive.

"Citizens are getting aware of the need for them to use face mask and there are more awareness going on for people to get used to it," Elkana said.

"Whatever directive government gives for the safety of our people that will help in stopping the spread of the virus, we will implement vigorously to ensure we save the lives of the people."

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