Philip Shaibu hands a facemask to a pedestrian, during the enforcement of the state’s coronavirus (COVID-19) safety protocol at Kings Square

By Jethro Ibileke/Benin

Determined to enforce strict compliance with the state’s COVID-19 safety protocol, the Edo State Government has deployed a batch of 200 constabulary police officers to the three metropolitan local government areas in the state.

The constables were deployed to Oredo, Egor and Ikpoba-Okha LGAs, (all in Benin), with a charge to arrest those not wearing face masks in public.

The enforcement team stormed markets, parks, eateries and banks to arrest defaulters who flouted government’s directive on compulsory wearing of face masks in public.

Addressing the constabulary police officers in Benin City, the state Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu, charged them on professionalism in enforcing compliance.

He said anyone found not wearing face mask in public would be arrested and taken to the testing centre for compulsory testing.

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He added that mobile courts have been set up and anybody caught would be arrested and prosecuted.

“You are going for a very important assignment to enforce the Covid-19 safety protocol. You have been deployed to Oredo, Egor and Ikpoba-Okha LGAs, to make sure that all the eateries have hand wash facilities and to ensure social distancing among the customers visiting the eateries.

“We must ensure all the eateries and banks are not crowded. People must line up for easy entry. All the drivers, both private and commercial and their passengers must put on face masks,” Shaibu told them.

The Deputy governor, while conducting the enforcement team across markets, parks, eateries and banks in Benin metropolis, caught some defaulters, but were however pardoned.

“The enforcement has started, those that were caught today are lucky that they were not taken to tribunal. And we gave them that opportunity to go and rethink and obey the law. They may not be lucky next time.

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“We have the Police constabulary in place, and the state Public Work Volunteer (PUWOV) and other partners have also contributed men and materials for this cause.

“The state government is determined to enforce Covid-19 safety protocol at all levels. What we have done today is just to officially start the commencement of strict enforcement.

“The enforcement is not just for motorists; it is also for pedestrians. We are also looking at banks, eateries and commercial areas. We started from our own hospital, the Edo Specialist Hospital, to make sure they complied with this directive.

“Most of our people think they are wearing the face mask to do the government a favour; I think we need to change this narrative and we are working to change that narrative.

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“Some are not wearing face masks properly; these are some of the things we need to educate them about. Thank God we have been able to pass the message that covering your nose is helping yourself and your neighbor.

“The fine may be small, the punishment may be big. The biggest of them all is the conviction; if you are convicted, just know that you have become an ex-convict,” Shaibu said.