Udeme UTIP, Uyo
The government of Akwa Ibom State and indeed the entire citizenry have been thrown to palpable fear due to the ravaging effects of COVID-19 in the last one month.
Apart from Dr. Dominic Essien, a physiotherapist who owned a private clinic and was a lecturer in the department of Physiology in the University of Uyo who died early last year, Akwa Ibom has lost two more prominent indigenes to the dreaded pandemic between December 2020 and January 2021.
Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga, Air Commodore Rtd, a former governor of the state during the military era, were confirmed dead in Ibom Specialist Hospital after reportedly showing symptoms and testing positive to the dreaded virus.
Until his death in the early hours of December 27th 2020, Nkanga was the Managing Director, Victor Attah International Airport.
The death of the state’s chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Obong Udo Ekpenyong, is another shocker in the state.
Ekpenyong’s death on January 18, 2021 is one that took the entire state and the South-South geographical zone of the country by storm. Ekpenyong reportedly died in the late hours of Monday, January 18, after being tested positive to Covid-19.
Ekpenyong has been down in health within the last few weeks even as his absence from state functions was obvious since December 2020.
Most obvious was during the disbursement of his party’s largesse to members and supporters as well as the recent swearing in of four commissioners and permanent secretaries in the state.
Before his election as the state PDP chairman last year, Ekpenyong was the commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs in the state. He was known to be a strong ally of Governor Udom Emmanuel.
The last has not been heard of the dreaded scourge in the state as over five of the state executive council members are reportedly in different isolation centers within the state.
Chief of Staff to the governor, Akparawa Ephraim Inyangeyen recently told journalists in the state to take the issue of Covid-19 very serious and adhere to preventive measures. It was shocking to receive the news that he was isolated, though within the confines of his home; after showing minor signs of COVID-19. Inyangeyen has since recovered and is now being seen in public.
A member of the National Assembly from the state who visited home during the yuletide season said he developed symptoms on getting back to Abuja. Being a medical doctor, he subjected himself to test and proceeded on self isolation and necessary treatments after testing positive. He is 100 percent back to normal health condition.
“The virus does not recognise the rich or the poor in the society. It is not proper to assume that it infects some people and leaves the rest. It treats everybody the same. So, let us be careful to avoid contacting it,” the lawmaker who insisted his name should not be on papers warned.
It is on good authority that some members of Akwa Ibom State Executive Council have tested positive to the virus. While those with severe symptoms are sent to the isolation center, others with less severe cases are being attended to in their homes.
However, some members of the Exco and other top government officials who had contacts with the affected persons have proceeded on self isolation. Recent record as released, reveals that no over 300 persons are positive and are now in the isolation center at Ituk Mbang, near Uyo.
A visit to the University of Uyo, which recently commenced academic activities after almost a year’s strike, revealed a nonchalant attitude to the pandemic as over 90 per cent of the students were sighted in clusters and without any form of protection.
The worst scenes are the various markets in the state. Separate visits to the popular Akpan Andem and Itam Markets showed that both sellers and buyers are not in any way concerned with the precautionary measures as stressed by Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC).
No use of face mask, no social or physical distancing. Even buckets of water and hand sanitizers provided by FEYReP, the pet project of the wife of the state governor Dr. Martha Udom Emmanuel are just kept to fulfil all righteousness as no one looks at them a second time.
TNN’s chat with some market women shows that majority of people in that class don’t really believe in the existence of corona virus.
“Those that have eaten enough can die of COVID-19, we are struggling to eat so such disease is not looking for us. I was here since last year when they started singing COVID-19, I am still here, by the grace of God; I will still be here.
‘How can I be covering my nose and mouth to sell in the market? With what I’m selling here, how many times will I wash my hands in a day? Please I have been washing in church. That should be enough,” a yam seller in Akpan Andem Market said.
In most churches visited as prayers and fasting are going on, the highest preventive measure observed is the use of hand sanitizer at the entrance of the church. Only very few worshippers care to use the wash hand basins provided. Face mask are only used to gain entrance through the gate as security operatives are strict on the “no face mask, no entry” policy.
In public primary and secondary institutions, the state government has put in place measures to check the spread among students. The senior and junior classes have been divided into two, with each attending classes three times a week, including Saturdays. The design is to give enough space for each section to observe physical distancing which is very Paramount in checking the spread of Covid-19.
Special task force put together by the state government have taken it as a point of duty to visit schools, both private and public to ensure that COVID-19 precautionary measures are carried out to the latter.
A student of Bright Stars Model Secondary School, Aka Itiam told TNN that over three teams of task force on COVID-19 have visited the school between the January 11 resumption date and now.
The student who gave her name simply as Favour, said the school has intensified measures to ensure that students adhere strictly with the use of face mask and physical distancing in table arrangements in classrooms even as the number of students in each classroom has been reduced to 20 Commuters are still heavily at risk of the pandemic, Keke and mini bus drivers have still not complied with the rules. While keke still carries three passengers, the mini bus carries three in a row.
Tricycle operators seem to have an advantage over mini buses since they have been stripped of the usual tarpaulin making it easy for free flow of air. Most commuters are hardly seen with face mask while in keke or mini bus.