Sokoto — Fun seekers at the Giginya Army Barrack Mammy market, Sokoto were shocked on Wednesday night when by 9:00 pm, soldiers 'chased' visitors and shop owners out of the market before the regular closing hour of 11:00 pm.
Giginya Army Barrack mammy market is one of the major joints where fun-seekers visit for relaxation in Sokoto and since the start of the Boko Haram insurgents in the country, the mammy market like any other regimented areas in the country have been restricted with specific visiting and closing hours.
The regular closing hour in the last three years at the mammy market has been 11:00 pm, but fun-seekers were shocked on Wednesday when Soldiers started blowing the whistle by 8:45 pm to 'chase' them out of the mammy market before the usual closing hour of 11:00 pm.
A fun seeker who spoke to our correspondent said "it is strange, I don't expect this, I came here to relax, but I have not even settled down when the shop owner told me oga you have to order your drinks fast because we are asked to close by 9:00 pm today.
But findings by our correspondent revealed that the action was communicated to shop owners earlier in the day and that it may not be unconnected to measures against the further spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
According to an operator of a beer parlour in the mammy market, madam Esther, " yes we were told that the closing hours is 9:00 pm today and it is because of the Coronavirus".
She explained further that "the authority want us to comply to all the precautionary measures that will help in curtailing further spread of the virus.
Corroborating Madam Esther, Mr. Sunday said " Yes it all about the COVID-19, they want all shop owners to comply with the safety rules"
He said " they want each shop to provide hand sanitizers and make provisions for hand washing and also observe the social distancing by limiting the number of people on a table and possibility number of customers in a shop.
Mr. Sunday also revealed that "we are also warned about the possible influx of people from the neighbouring county that may entre with the virus and the news to take precautionary measures.
Sources at the mammy market told the correspondent that the army is using the closing hour to ensure compliance to the new rule.
He said " you know the longer the hours the more shop owners make money in mammy market and the Army know this and are taking advantage of it to ensure shop owners comply to the precautionary measures and etiquette expected of people at this COVID-19 pandemic period
He said "they will comply, shop owners are only complaining of the short notice giving to them by the authority, they were informed of this action by 4:00 pm and you know a lot of them might have cooked plenty proper soup and it may amount to waste, but they will adjust by tomorrow.
Confirming the measures to our correspondent, Acting Army Public Relations Officer, 8th Division Army Headquarters, Sokoto, Lieutenant Hammanga said the measure is part of effort to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
According to him, " Guidelines have been giving to shop owners on how to operate and that all food vendors at the mammy can only sell and serve customers in take away, hand Sanitizers will be provided at all the entrance of the mammy market.
The Army spokesman said the message was passed to representatives of the traders at the mammy market earlier and it is an a punitive measures but for the safety of the generality of the public.