The Director of Administration and Strategy of Transportation Growth Initiative, Engr. John Emmanuel has spoken on how the federal government can set up transport stakeholders committee curtail the spread of COVIC-19 in Nigeria. He said this in a chat with newsmen in Abuja. Excerpts:
Q: Can we know you?
A: My name is Engineer John Emmanuel, the Director of Administration and Strategy of Transportation Growth Initiative.
Q: Looking at the issue on ground, Covid19 pandemic, people must travel, commerce go to do one or two things. What strategy have you put in place to ensure that people still move around and are still safe?
A: By way of introduction, from the beginning of the Covid19 pandemic, I have published three articles on different platforms and I have been on different programmes discussing covid-19 and transport in particular. To begin with, NCDC and the various state governments would not be enough in providing the measures required to ensure that Covid19 does not spread through transport, and so you discover the fact that, from the time Covid19 incidences began in Nigeria, there was no quick response by the authorities to provide the measures required, until the President came over to announce the lockdown in the cities. Then Abuja came out with some measures, Lagos also did, then Port Harcourt.
Those measures came but they were not sufficient and they were not strictly implemented. And so, in my opinion, transport was one of the conduit pipes through which Covid19 spread across the cities of Nigeria. For instance, the foreign cases that came; came to Abuja and Lagos, but today, we have the cases in all the states of Nigeria and in virtually, every city, and all of them went to transport because there were no efficient management of the transport components of the measures.
That said, current measures in Abuja are that, everybody is expected to wear face mask, the measures also said 50% capacity utilization of the vehicles, which means if your vehicle carries 6persons, it is supposed to now carry 3persons, and then, there is that provision that says that the vehicles must be sanitized everyday and then the terminals are sanitized, the bus stops are sanitized and there are hand washing facilities as well as and sanitizers at the entry to the vehicles, which are not available. And so, the only hope we have is for individuals to protect themselves.
The implementation of the social distancing in vehicles, which says 50% capacity, is not obeyed generally. There are a few places where security agencies are enforcing and they are working. In other places, it is not; and because of that, individuals must protect themselves and that means, as an individual, you need to have a hand sanitizer with you constantly to use at every point in time. In the vehicles, it is mandatory you use your face mask and then touch less things, I mean within the vehicle, because you are not sure whether the vehicles are sanitized, you don’t know who touched it before you are touching it and so you must carry your hand sanitizer at all times, your face mask is on it, less interactions with people because you can’t guarantee who have it and who doesn’t have it, and for that reason, it is best to protect yourself and if finally, I am one of those who use public transport, I will choose not to use public transport by this time. The reason simply, is that you cannot guarantee, neither do you know who has it and who does not have it.
Q: As an authority in the industry, what measures have you put in place to now give it out to other state commanders as your own contribution?
A: Just as I began with, I have published three different articles, highlighting some of these key recommendations that are required to ensure that people don’t contact Covid-19 through transport and these were publish; sent to FCT, Lagos government, sent to different platforms where the main authorities are. As a matter of fact, what Abuja published as its Covid19 measure was 70% of one of the articles I wrote and there are several other recommendations made like that. They use some within the limit of what is convenient for them. They ignored some but that won’t stop us from being on air, being on paper talking about it and ensuring that people stay safe in public transport.
Q: So, on a final note, what then is your advice to the government?
A: My advice to the government has remained the same. Elsewhere, in different countries of the world, one of the first things to do is to set up a multi stakeholder transport subcommittee that analyzes the issues around transport, publish a transport protocol that guides way everybody does on transport. The transporters themselves, the drivers the conductors; they have what they must do to be on the road. The passenger s have a role, what he or she must do to be in the vehicle and when they drop, there is a protocol on what happens to the vehicles once passengers are dropped. This is what happens elsewhere across the world, so if we have such policies guided by a committee that is accessing and monitoring the performance of the entire process, then we can guarantee that transport would not be a conduit pipe for distributing Covid-19 across Nigeria.
Q: Do you think government still need to go that far knowing Federal Road Safety; can’t they extend their acts towards this angle you just said?
A: Now, Federal Road Safety Corp, essentially enforces movement, not what happens in the vehicle, not what happened in the house of the owner of the vehicle. They don’t have that power by law except if it is a new regulation. And Covid-19 has not come to finish tomorrow, I can guarantee you that. The World Health Organization have said “This disease would be with us for a long period of time” so what stops us, it doesn’t cause too much money, neither does it require the one million base, if you set up five man committee, ten man, stakeholder committee, sit them down within two weeks, they would give you guideline and that provides what everybody will rely on; on using transport. That way, you will prevent, if five cities are the ones having Covid-19 now, you can be guaranteed that it would not go beyond five cities, which was what I published on the 19th of March, which was never implemented.