It is no secret that COVID 19 is a travellers disease as most of the cases in Nigeria started of as imported cases. Movement advances the spread of the disease because we rely heavily on the need for mobility. But with the need for social distancing and self-isolation to stop the spread of COVID 19 in Nigeria, our transportation systems are directly affected.
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The first hit was the aviation industry. It started off with restricted entry into the country from 13 high risk countries and suspension of visa-on-arrival into Nigeria. Then all international flights were restricted to only two airports in Nigeria, the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja. Followed by the ban on foreign travels by public officials and the suspension of the production of international passports. Later, all land borders were closed. And as we speak, all international flights have been suspended for four weeks while land and sea borders are closed. In other words, everybody dey your dey.
These restrictions affected the influx of passengers for domestic transport as the Airports became ghost towns making the grounding of all domestic flights inevitable. Now Major airlines like Air Peace, Arik and Aero Contractor have announced suspension of domestic flight operations by 27th of March latest.
While all the border restrictions were going on, the Nigerian Railway corporation (NRC) announced the suspension of the Lagos-Ogun state Mass Transit Train Services (MTTS) indefinitely. So the tons of people who use that train twice daily would have to find alternative routes if they still want to commute despite the stay-at-home order from the government.
This has in-turn affected road transportation. Car parks are now flooded with people rushing home to ‘safer’ parts of the country. Causing shortage of buses and congested bus/motor parks/garages. To create some precautionary measures against the spread of the disease from motor parks and water jetties, the Lagos government issued out guidelines for the public transport sector. These are the guidelines which other states are taking ‘dressing’ from.
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Since the announcement on March 24th, there has been compliance at BRT terminals in Lagos howbeit incomplete. People no longer stand on the aisles, sanitizers are available for passengers at some motor parks, even staffers now use gloves and face masks and all transport vehicles are to carry 60% capacity. While in Calabar, public taxis now carry one passenger in front and two at the back as opposed to having six people in a car with the capacity for only four passengers. And in Delta State, kekes now carry only two passengers as opposed to the usual four passengers. But not everyone is observing these changes. In Abuja and around the country, taxis are still loading at full capacity as are the smaller buses and taxis in Lagos state.
As for boat transportation which was becoming a thriving business in Lagos before the COVID 19 outbreak, the same rules for motors and motor parks applies to them too. Though compliance to these regulations cannot be quite ascertained (as some transporters have used the crisis to inflate prices), there is already an overburdening on our transportation systems pending a lock down in certain states.
As the understanding of the COVID 19 threat hits home, we believe more of these practises will be implemented around the country. Sure there is serious financial loss in this sector, but there is a silver lining in all these. First is these regulations are only for a two – four week period to enable us contain the spread of this virus. Secondly, if these social distancing and sanitation regulations for road transportation continues after this pandemic, it might actually be a step in the right direction for improving our lifestyles in Nigeria.
For now, no one is allowed to leave or enter the country. As of 26th March, the Federal Government announced plans to ban all inter-state travels until we have a handle on this crisis.
What impact has COVID 19 had on transportation within your community lately?
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Lagos State government NG
US Embassy & Consulate in Nigeria
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