FG extends gradual easing of lockdown by another 2 weeks [Sun]

  • Says relaxation portends grave danger

President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the extension of the current phase of eased restriction for another two weeks.

Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, made this disclosure at the daily briefing in Abuja, yesterday.

“Nigeria is not yet ready for full opening of the economy and tough decisions have to be taken for the good of the greater majority. Any relaxation will only portend grave danger for our populace,” he said.

The government also extended a full lockdown in Kano State, which has the second highest number of confirmed cases in the country behind Lagos, and where authorities are investigating a spate of mysterious deaths.

The Federal Government had planned to completely ease coronavirus lockdowns in those states over a six-week period from May 4.

Mustapha said measures put in place in the first phase yielded sufficient progress that requires consolidation to ensure that the health system and economy are in a position to adequately respond to any potential outcomes in the future – including a secondary outbreak.

“The two weeks extension of Phase one of the eased restriction is also to enable other segments of the economy prepare adequately for compliance with the guidelines, preparatory to reopening in the coming weeks. For the PTF, we share your pains but our future is in the hands of every Nigerian and future decisions will depend greatly on our compliance.

He listed steps approved by Buhari as follows:

“The measures, exemptions, advisories and scope of entities allowed to reopen under phase one of the eased locked down, shall be maintained across the federation for another two weeks effective from 12 00 midnight today (18th May, 2020 to 1st June, 2020).

“Intensifying efforts to “tell (communicate), trace (identify) and treat (manage)’ cases;

“Elevating the level of community ownership of non-pharmaceutical interventions;

“Maintain the existing lockdown order in Kano for an additional two weeks;

“Imposition of precision lockdown in states, or in metropolitan/high-burden LGAs, that are reporting a rapidly increasing number of cases, when the need arises. This would be complemented with the provision of palliatives and continued re-evaluation of the impact of the interventions; and

“Aggressive scale up of efforts to ensure that communities are informed, engaged and participating in the response with enhanced public awareness in high risk states.”

“Specific implementation guidelines would be communicated by the National Coordinator during this press briefing and would be circulated through the conventional and social media.

“For sustainability of the gains recorded, the PTF shall continue to support states by developing guidelines to shape decision-making for future steps in the response and aggressively scale up efforts to ensure effective community information.

“It is believed that these steps will help consolidate the gains made so far, and position the country to effectively overcome the pandemic. In the interest of our nation, the role of the states and local governments remain critical to success. The PTF shall engage with the states on the effective implementation of these guidelines.”

He said the exemptions allowed under the phase one were still in place.

“Particularly, government remains conscious of the fact that we are in the rainy season and farming activities is critical to food and national security. It should therefore, not be hindered.”

FG quarantines pilots of seized British aircraft

The Federal Government said the pilots of the impounded aircraft owned by a British company, Flairjet, have been quarantined for 14 days.

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who made the disclosure, apologised for referring to the airline involved as Flairjet as against Flair Aviation that he tweeted on Sunday.

“There is a company called Flairjet. I want to apologise that I tweeted in the afternoon (on Sunday) when the fasting was biting harder and we verified this as Flair Aviation. The correct name is Flairjet and it is a UK registered company.

“They have an aircraft, Legacy 600, and the registration number of the aircraft is GPRFX. Their business address is Business Aviation Centre, Terminal Road, Birmingham International Airport, West Midlands and their code is B26QN.

“This company applied severally as to operate humanitarian flights and we did approve. It is very clear at the beginning of this exercise that we defined what those flights should be: essential flights basically – cargo, medical evacuation, medical supplies, and so on and so forth.

“Unfortunately, this company decided to become commercial in their service, charging money and flying people in and out.

“In the first place, the whole essence of a lockdown is to ensure there is no movement of persons freely because this COVID-19 we are all spending sleepless nights for happened because somebody travelled abroad. So, we believe this shouldn’t happen.

“Current status, we are investigating the matter right now, it would finish very soon. The crew is British nationals. The pilots are subjected to 14 days quarantine at the moment while the investigation goes on. Whatever is there in our laws will be applied to the fullest.”

Sirika also said thre has been slight change in the procedure as regards flights approval.

“This time around once we receive any requests for a flight, we are to get in touch quickly with the full purpose of the point of entry to see whether quarantine space available before that flight is given approval, those details I’m sure will come in the briefing by the national coordinator, but this will be done electronically as usual through WhatsApp or email and they need to be a speedy as it is to be certainly don’t have any significant time lost.”

 

CBN, NNPC to spend N1bn for feeding, accommodation of evacuees –Onyeama [Sun]

Minister of Foreign Affairs,  Geoffrey Onyeama, has disclosed that Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), have both agreed to fund, as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), the cost of quarantine accommodation and feeding for Nigerians returning to the country from abroad.

He disclosed this on Monday at the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

This was coming as the Federal Government last week said the second batch of over 4,000 Nigerians who indicated interest to return would pay for their own hotel accommodation and feeding while in quarantine.

Government has been footing the bills for the accommodation and feeding of the batch of over 600 Nigerians evacuated from other countries and currently in quarantine in different hotels in Lagos and Abuja.

Onyeama explained that he had reached out to the NNPC and CBN as advised by a member of the PTF,  Minister of Environment, Dr. Muhammad Mahmood, to seek funds for the accommodation and feeding of evacuees during their two-week isolation upon return from abroad.

Controversy had trailed the decision asking the evacuees to pay for their feeding and accommodation, with many Nigerians accusing the Federal Government of exploiting the citizens despite various donations to support the fight against COVID-19. But speaking at a briefing yesterday, Onyeama said the government ran out of funds hence the decision to allow  the evacuees make arrangements for their feeding and accommodation at designated hotels.

The minister said: “The first three sets of evacuees, we used funding meant for something else in the hope that we might get funding to continue.

“That funding dried up. And so, we found ourselves in a situation where either we stop evacuation for lack of funding — but we knew there were so many people who were desperate to get back — or we pass on the cost to the evacuees.”

Onyeama said that with the lack of funding, he reached out to Godwin Emefiele, CBN governor, to support the government as a form of corporate social responsibility.

He said: “The governor of CBN, very generously and very kindly, agreed; he said the amount I was talking about, over N1 billion because we have over 4,000 Nigerians out there… he said he was ready to explore and share the cost with NNPC.

“And I spoke to the GMD of NNPC and he said he was going to consult. And thanks be to God, today, he got back to me to say he was ready, he was going to meet up with the CBN governor and together, they will fund this portion; a very important portion, the accommodation and feeding of evacuees.”

 

Okonjo-Iweala, Nwuneli, others make list of 100 African women leading change in devt [Sun]

Former Minister of Finance, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Co-Founder of Sahel Consulting, Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli and art enthusiast, Bolanle Austen-Peters, have been listed among 100 women leading change in development across Africa.

A survey conducted by Donors for Africa Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, listed other women pacesetters to include former Liberia President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Wife of Ekiti governor, Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, Kiki Mordi, Ini Abimbola Sarah Lagot, Onyeka Akpaida, Hauwa Ojiefor, Chisom Obi-Jeff, Jokate Mwegelo and Sahle-Work Zwede, among others.

On why these women were recognised, Mrs. Chidi Koldsweat, founder, Donors for Africa Foundation, said it was borne out of the need for increased focus and investment in women  leading development conversations in unconventional roles in Africa.

“These women are stars that are actively impacting their local communities through their work in international organisations, private and public sector companies, nonprofit organisations, media, and politics. They were nominated, selected and we are celebrating them for their impact and commitment towards the Sustainable Development Goals,” she said.

She said  every woman on the list can be identified with tangible results seen in their local communities.

“We were also careful to identify women in the formal development sector who may not be founders, but are equally using their skills and competence to create life changing results,” she said.

She reiterated the belief of the organisation to shine the light on the role these women play as they work tirelessly to accelerate the #2030 Sustainable Development Goal and the #2063 African Union Agenda.

Donors for Africa Foundation is a grant management organisation working with government, funding institutions, philanthropy organisations, private and public sector, other NGOs and social impact leaders to break the cycle of poverty. They also connect funding and development agencies to competent organisations implementing change on the African continent.

Lagos, Kano, Borno account for 52% COVID-19 deaths – FG [Punch]

  • Govt plans lockdown in states, LGs with increasing cases
  • Nigeria not ready for full reopening of economy – PTF
  • CBN, NNPC allocate N1bn for isolation, feeding returnees

Kamarudeen Ogundele, Tobi Aworinde and Olaleye Aluko

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has approved the extension of the gradual ease of lockdown by another two weeks.

The Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, who disclosed this at the PTF press briefing on Monday, said security agencies had been directed to ensure strict enforcement of the use of face masks and the ban on interstate movements.

At the press conference, the Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe  Mamora, said Borno, Lagos and Kano states accounted for 52 per cent of COVID-19 deaths in the country.

Buhari had, in his broadcast on April 27, ordered gradual reopening of the economy.  He also imposed an 8pm to  6pm curfew on the nation and directed that interstate human and vehicular movements should stop.

The PTF, in the guidelines it issued a few days after the presidential address, called for the use of face masks in public places in addition to maintaining social distancing.

But despite the guidelines, there have been interstate movements, particularly by Quranic school pupils in the North, Almajirai, who are being hidden and conveyed to the South in food trucks.

The Almajirai have been turned back in southern states such as Cross River, Osun and Lagos.

As of April 27, when the President addressed the nation, the country had 1,337 cases of coronavirus. But on Sunday, the figure shot up to 5,959.

Mustapha, on Monday, said the PTF   reviewed the first phase of the eased lockdown and lamented Nigerians’ non-compliance with the ban on interstate movements and other guidelines issued by the task force.

He, however, said measures put in place had slowed down the transmission of the virus by elongating the doubling time which had changed from seven to 11 days.

Mustapha recalled that the President had addressed the nation three times to underscore the seriousness of COVID-19.

He stated, “On each of those occasions, he pronounced measures aimed at containing and controlling the spread of the disease.

“Some of these measures introduced in phases and modified as we progressed, include lockdown of specified high burden areas, travel ban, nationwide curfew, as well as advisories aimed at preventing and controlling the virus.”

The SGF regretted that the outcome of the phase one of the eased lockdown had “been mixed.”

He stated, “While some objectives were met, our assessment showed that non-compliance was rampant, but the PTF nevertheless continued to persuade the populace through its messaging and daily briefing on the need to take responsibility.”

Nine LGs account for 51% of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria – FG

Mustapha said nine local government areas in the country accounted for 51 per cent of the total number of COVID-19 infections in the country.

He stated, “Our surveillance, infection prevention and control activities identified nine high burden local government areas in the federation reporting high number of cases and accounting for 51 per cent of the total number of infections in the country. All the nine are densely populated local government areas nationwide.”

He also noted that the health care system had been better equipped to detect, test, isolate and treat every case, and trace every person who came into contact with a positive case.

The SGF added that  COVID-19 laboratories had increased from 15 on April 27 to 26; adding that the total number of tests had risen to 35,098.

Mustapha said  despite the gains recorded,   the PTF in its report to the President concluded that there was still a long way to go.

He stated, “The inevitable conclusion of the PTF is that the fight against COVID-19 is long term as the virus is not likely to go away very soon.

“This is further underscored by the fact that no vaccine is expected till around the end of 2021. Nigeria is not where we wish to be in terms of control, ownership, infrastructure and change of behaviour. We must do more.”

The PTF chairman said the task force would focus its policy on community ownership.

He said in the next phase, communities would take ownership of the COVID-19  fight, adding that  infrastructure and other public health measures would be provided in every community.

Nigeria not ready for full reopening of economy – FG

Mustapha said, “The reality is that in spite of the modest progress made, Nigeria is not yet ready for full opening of the economy and tough decisions have to be taken for the good of the greater majority. Any relaxation will only portend grave danger for our populace.

“Advisedly, the current phase of eased restriction will be maintained for another two weeks during which stricter enforcement and persuasion measures will be pursued.”

According to him, the two weeks extension of phase one of the eased restriction is also to enable other segments of the economy to prepare adequately for compliance with the guidelines, preparatory to reopening in the coming weeks.

He  said the President had approved that “the measures, exemptions, advisories and scope of entities allowed to reopen under phase one of the eased locked down, shall be maintained across the federation for another two weeks effective from 12 midnight today to June 1.”

Buhari extends Kano lockdown

Mustapha also disclosed that Buhari had also granted approval for extension of the existing lockdown  in Kano for an additional two weeks.

According to him, the Federal Government extended the lockdown in Kano because the pandemic hit the states with a bang.

He said the unknown causes of many deaths in the state were  sources  of worry for government.

Mustapha stated, “Community transmission had been occurring before the index case was established. We don’t want Kano figure to escalate and compete with that of Lagos and the only way to achieve this is to interrupt community transmission in Kano. It requires a drastic step.”

FG plans lockdown in states, LGs with increasing cases

He also said government would impose  “precision lockdown in states, or in metropolitan/high-burden LGAs (local government areas) that are reporting a rapidly increasing number of cases, when the need arises.”

According to him,  this will be complemented with the provision of palliatives and continued re-evaluation of the impact of the intervention.

The SGF reminded the governors of the need to align their state measures with the guidelines issued by the PTF.

Mustapha said there would be vigorous implementation of interstate lockdown and curfew among others in the coming weeks, urging citizens to cooperate with security agencies.

The SGF  stated, “The level of compliance has been reviewed and a specific directive has been issued to the security agencies to carry out strict enforcement of all measures.

“These include the nationwide curfew from 8pm to 6pm; the ban on interstate travels and the wearing of facemasks/coverings in public.”

He, however, urged security agents to be mindful of the rights of citizens, adding that citizens should   recognise the danger of COVID-19.

Lagos, Kano, Borno account for 52% COVID-19 deaths, says minister

The Minister of State for Health,  Mamora,  said Lagos, Kano and Borno states accounted for 52 per cent of COVID-19 deaths in the country.

Mamora also said 60 per cent of COVID-19 cases in the country were aged between 21 and 50 years.

As of Sunday, Nigeria had recorded 5,959 coronavirus cases, with 1,594 discharged, while 182 patients had died.

Lagos State with 2,550 cases,  the highest in the country, is followed by Kano, which has 825 cases and the Federal Capital Territory that has 418 cases. Borno State has 215 cases.

On Monday, Mamora said  the Federal Government had sent more test kits and laboratory consumables to Kano State. According to him,   660 tests are being conducted  in the state daily.

COVID-19 cluster cases found in LG in Sokoto – Minister

Mamora added that the government team sent to Sokoto “curiously found a cluster of COVID-19 cases in one local government area” saying measures were being taken  to reach more communities nationwide.

The minister also said, “Till date, sadly, Lagos, Kano and Borno states accounted for 52 per cent of deaths. The increased daily record is largely due to our increased tracing and testing capacity which is mainly as a result of increased community mobilisation and awareness creation.”

It is not our job to provide PPE for police – PTF

The National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, said the allowance for security personnel deployed in the enforcement the COVID-19 lockdown was receiving attention.

The security agencies, especially the police, had accused the Federal Government of neglecting their welfare and not providing them with personnel protective equipment on the “delicate” assignment.

Responding to a question, Aliyu said, “We are currently processing this. We have been awaiting paper work; the paper work needs to be completed before we go ahead to pay.”

He, however, absolved the PTF of the responsibility of providing the PPE.

“As regards the PPE, we distributed some PPE to frontline non-health workers last week, but a lot of agencies that deal with security do have budget lines for the PPE and we expect them to procure the PPE using their budget,” he said.

States should be prepared to tackle community transmission – PTF

Aliyu said the PTF would  allow states to tackle community transmission in the coming weeks.

He said, “We have activated community engagement team. Moving on to the next phase, our intention is to give more leeway to state governments to take decisions as regards to the response. It will not be driven primarily at the federal level beyond the next few weeks.”

The Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, at the press briefing said  Buhari would find it easier to fully reopen the economy after  the PTF  had conducted a comprehensive review of its guidelines.

He said, “It would be much easier for Mr President, in two weeks’ time, if we go back to him not with a narrative of ‘do I open the lockdown or not?’ but with a narrative of ‘in the event that we are ready and the time has come, this is the preparation we have made as an industry. These are the new guidelines we have come up with in order to reopen safely.’

“This will make his decision a lot easier. But it’s not just the big industries; the aviation and education sectors are very well regulated, so it’s a bit easier to make those decisions.”

 

COVID-19 not a joke, Buhari tells govs [Punch]

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Monday told state governors not to take the raging COVID-19 pandemic as a joke.

He asked them to step up enlightenment of their people on the seriousness of the infection by ensuring they stayed safe.

Buhari also called on the governors to work closely with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to streamline the measures targeted at containing the spread.

The President made the call during a virtual meeting he held with the governors.

While he participated in the meeting via a video conference from the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, led his colleagues to join from other locations.

The President stated that having received a briefing from the PTF’s Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, he had directed that both sides worked closely.

“I have directed that they work very closely with the governors”, he said, adding, “We have to be very careful. We need to continue to educate and persuade the people to accept the reality of the situation, and do all that is necessary to stay safe.”

Buhari told the governors that the pandemic was “beyond technology, power, and resources.”

The President noted that big countries with huge resources were overwhelmed by the pandemic, an indication that small countries like Nigeria must take precautionary measures more seriously.

“The meeting also discussed economic and security issues, among others, with the governors commending the President on the ‘leadership and direction’ he has given the country in combating COVID-19”, Buhari’s spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina, stated.

Recall that some state governors had lifted the lockdown in their domains, allowing for religious activities to take place in mosques and churches.

They had also called back civil servants to work and are said to be preparing to reopen schools.

The PUNCH observes that these steps taken by some of the states go contrary to the guidelines of the PTF on the current relaxed lockdown of Lagos, the Federal Capital Territory and Ogun State.

Buhari had approved the relaxed lockdown to take effect from May 4, allowing for limited resumption of intra-state activities across the Federation.

The use of face masks was made compulsory, among others.

However, he placed a ban on inter-state movements and imposed a curfew from 8pm to 6am nationwide.

But, the regulations have been largely observed more in breach by the states.

The PTF, during a meeting with Buhari on Sunday, lodged the complaints to the President.

 

Police parade couple, Oyo cleric’s aides over twins’ abduction [Punch]

The Oyo State Police Command, on Monday, paraded seven suspects in connection with the abduction of two-year-old twins of a popular Islamic cleric, Alhaj Taofeek Azeez, aka Akewugbagold.

The police said investigation revealed that the suspected kidnappers, who invaded the Ibadan residence of the cleric on April 25, 2020, included a couple and two close associates of Akewugbagold.

PUNCH Metro had reported that Walfiq and Walfiqo, the male and female twins were born 12 years after their mother had been praying for fruit of the womb.

Those arrested include Rildwan Taiwo, 30; Olumide Ajala, 36; Fatai Akanji, 39; Mutiu Rafiu, 35; and his wife Modinat, 29.

Two aides of the cleric, Bashiru Mohammed,33; and Opeyemi Oyeleye, 25, were also apprehended.

During their parade on Monday, the Commissioner of Police in the state, Shina Olukolu, said investigation carried out in Oyo, Adamawa and Sokoto states led to the arrest of members of the syndicate.

Items recovered from the suspected kidnappers included part of the ransom they allegedly collected from Akewugbagold, a locally-fabricated gun, some bullets, two Micra cabs and a motorcycle.

Olukolu said, “Sequel to the last press briefing held on May 13, during which the command showcased the arrest of some notorious kidnappers, armed robbers/criminal receivers, impersonators and murderers/cultists terrorising the state, concerted efforts by the command with the support of the people of Oyo State continue to yield good results.

“In the sensational case of the kidnapping of the two-year-old twins of Alhaji Taofeek Azeez Akewugbagold on April 25, all the suspects have been arrested with substantial part of the ransom collected; the gun used for the operation, the two operational vehicles and one motorcycle recovered from them.

“On April 25 around 8pm, a report was received at the Ojoo Divisional Police Headquarters, Ibadan, that some armed robbers cum members of a kidnapping syndicate terrorising the public within the Ibadan metropolis and other parts of Oyo State invaded the residence of Alhaji Taofeek Azeez Akewugbagold on Alphonso Road, behind the PHCN office, Sasa Area, Ojoo, Ibadan, with guns, cutlasses and other weapons.

“The notorious criminals attacked Akewugbagold’s wife and subsequently abducted his two-year-old twins to an unknown destination. The assailants later demanded ransom of N50m before the two children would be released.

“Concerted efforts were made to rescue the abducted babies and arrest the perpetrators of the heinous crime. The abducted babies were released unhurt eight days after with their father parting with the sum of N4m.

“One locally-made cut-to-size single-barrelled gun, eight live cartridges, one Nissan Micra car with number plate JJJ 703 BJ, another Nissan Micra car with number plate NRK 864 YR, the sum of N2,863,000, being part of the ransom and an unregistered TVS motorcycle were recovered from the hoodlums.”

The female member of the gang, Modinat, who was detailed to take care of the kidnapped children while in captivity, said she was Mutiu Rafiu’s wife.

“Although I am the only wife, when my husband and the others brought the twins to our house, I thought they were brought from my husband’s mistress,” she stated.

Akewugbagold’s aides, alleged that they mooted the idea because they were broke.

The cleric, however, said, “I pay them salaries regularly and they always receive gifts whenever we go for lectures. This is a result of greed.”

 

CCECC MD on 15 Chinese experts: they are with us [Nation]

China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) Managing Director Mr. Michael Yigao confirmed on Monday that the 15 Chinese medical experts are in the custody of the firm. The medics arrived in the country on April 8 and went into 14-day seclusion to ascertain their COVID-19 status.

Last Thursday, Health Minister Osagie Ehanire, told his audience that he should be spared the explanation on the whereabouts of the Chinese doctors and technicians, who he stated “are not the guests of the Federal Government”.

According to him, they are the guests of the CCECC.

However, Yigao, told reporters on Monday that the experts came into the country to share their experiences in fighting the COVID-19.

He further explained that the team came specially to help CCECC fight this pandemic and protect its employees, a report in the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) stated.

Yigao said: “The team had a telecast meeting with the Minister of Health and some doctors around the country and shared their experience in China on how they’re fighting the virus and the meeting was very positive.

“They are here with us and have continued to teach our staff how to protect themselves because protection and prevention are more important than the treatment.

“Most of the workers understand the situation now and they know the risk, so they follow the proper procedures and cooperate with their instructors.

“Right now, commercial flights to China are not open, but when flights are open again, we’re considering the team going back to China.

“In a big country like Nigeria, it can be a bit difficult to control a pandemic because you will have to make all the people of such a large country understand that it is a serious and real thing.

“I think Nigeria is taking this very seriously and you can see it in the implementation of the lockdown and the suspension of international flights etc.

“And like other companies in Nigeria, we will do whatever we can to help the country, like building treatment centres and training people on how to handle the virus.

“Upon request from the Nigerian government, we gave necessary support, like building treatment centres and at the same time delivered some health-related equipment.

“We understand the COVID-19 pandemic challenge in Nigeria because we are based here and have a lot of employees and we do believe that with efforts from the government and the people, we will win this war.

“I hope the people of Nigeria understand that we need the help of all peoples across the world to win this fight against Coronavirus.”

“CCECC is a Nigerian company based here for nearly 40 years, and most of the staff here are Nigerians, so we have a Nigerian voice.

“You can see our works at the Airport Terminals, they are one of the finest in Africa; we at CCECC will not compromise standards for any price.”

 

Inter-state travel ban, curfew to continue for two weeks [Nation]

             Nation not ripe for end of lockdown, says Buhari

             Schools, worship centres, airports to remain shut

The measures imposed on the nation by President Muhammadu Buhari in the first phase of the eased lockdown will continue for two weeks, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 Control, said on Monday.

The measures announced by the President in an April 27 broadcast, which took effect on May 4, include:

             Ban on non-essential inter-state movement

             Nationwide 8pm to 6am curfew

             Observance of personal hygiene, social distancing and wearing of face masks and

             Restriction on religious and social gatherings.

After reviewing the situation since the guidelines went into operation, the Federal Government decided it was not yet time to completely ease the lockdown.

The continuation of the measures will expire on June 1.

Unveiling the development on Monday, PTF Chairman Boss Mustapha, who led some of the members to brief President Buhari on Sunday, said: “Ladies and gentlemen, the reality is that in spite of the modest progress made, Nigeria is not yet ready for full opening of the economy and tough decisions have to be taken for the good of the greater majority. Any relaxation will only portend grave danger for our populace.

“Advisedly, the current phase of eased restriction will be maintained for another two weeks during which stricter enforcement and persuasion measures will be pursued.

“The two weeks extension of Phase one of the eased restriction is also to enable other segments of the economy prepare adequately for compliance with the guidelines, preparatory to reopening in the coming weeks.

“For the PTF, we share your pains but our future is in the hands of every Nigerian and future decisions will depend greatly on our compliance.

“Based on the recommendations of the PTF, Mr. President has approved the following: The measures, exemptions, advisories and scope of entities allowed to reopen under phase one of the eased locked down, shall be maintained across the federation for another two weeks effective from 12 00 midnight today (18th May, 2020 to 1st June, 2020);

“Intensifying efforts to “tell (communicate), trace (identify) and treat (manage)’ cases; elevating the level of community ownership of non-pharmaceutical interventions;

“Maintain the existing lockdown order in Kano for an additional two weeks; Imposition of precision lockdown in states, or in metropolitan/high-burden LGAs, that are reporting a rapidly increasing number of cases, when the need arises. This would be complemented with the provision of palliatives and continued re-evaluation of the impact of the interventions; and

“Aggressive scale up of efforts to ensure that communities are informed, engaged and participating in the response with enhanced public awareness in high risk states”, he said.

He said all the exemptions granted in the first phase of the eased lockdown would remain in force, especially as related to farmers who need to resume for planting season.

Mustapha announced plans by the government to mitigate the economic implications of the virus pandemic on businesses.

“In recognition of the global impact of COVID-19 on economies and the need to stimulate and positively turn around our economy, the Federal Government has been implementing various stimulus packages offered to businesses and state governments through the CBN. These include: reduction of interest rates from nine per cent to five per cent for all CBN intervention facilities.

“Restructuring of loans to longer tenors for all companies whose businesses are adversely impacted by COVID-19; N50 billion facilities to household and businesses adversely impacted by COVID-19 through NIRSAL Micro Finance Bank;

“N100 billion facility to pharmaceutical and health sectors companies to retool their businesses; N1 trillion facility to agric and manufacturing companies to expand and set up new factories; and suspension of repayment of all state government loans for one year to give states ample financing room to pay salaries”, he said.

 

Buhari to governors: cooperate with PTF to battle virus [Nation]

President Muhammadu Buhari has advised governors to cooperate with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 Control so as to achieve the goal of containing the virus.

He reminded the governors of the need to educate and persuade Nigerians to accept the reality of the situation and to do all that is necessary to stay safe.

President Buhari spoke during a virtual meeting with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) yesterday.

A statement by Presidential spokesman Femi Adesina, quoted Buhari as telling the governors that the PTF had briefed him on next steps in the national response to the pandemic, “and I have directed that they work very closely with the governors.”

President Buhari said the pandemic was “beyond technology, power, and resources,” noting that countries that had all those, were recording highest casualties around the world.

The meeting also discussed economic and security issues, among others, with the governors, who commended the President on the “leadership and direction” he has given the country in combating COVID-19.

The President was joined in the Executive Council chambers at the State House, Abuja, by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, among others.

The PTF at its on Monday briefing, said: “As contained in the address of Mr. President on 27th April, 2020, governors are reminded to align their state specific measures with the guidelines issued by the PTF.

“For sustainability of the gains recorded, the PTF shall continue to support states by developing guidelines to shape decision-making for future steps in the response and aggressively scale up efforts to ensure effective community information.

“The security agents are however urged to be mindful of the human rights of citizens, while citizens are equally urged to recognize the dangers posed to self, their loved ones and the entire community if they fail to take responsibility.

“Let me state categorically, that the exemptions allowed under the phase one are still in place. Particularly, Government remains conscious of the fact that we are in the rainy season and farming activities is critical to food and national security. It should therefore, not be hindered.

“States and security agencies to support, encourage and allow farmers to carry out their activities”, he said.

Mustapha observed further that yesterday’s briefing was significant as it had provided the PTF an opportunity to assess progress made in the first phase of its stated three-pronged strategy, as well as it had afforded the task force the chance to communicate President Buhari’s directive on the next step of the national response to the COVID-19.

After acknowledging the unusual sacrifice that the inconveniences of the introduced measures might have been to Nigerians, Mustapha urged Nigerians to demonstrate more patriotism as the fight against COVID-19 would continue to demand more responsibility from the individuals.

“We wish to appeal to all Nigerians to show understanding, demonstrate patriotism and take responsibility. Humanity is in great peril and we are all in danger. Most importantly, we repeat our call on all Nigerians to please STAY HOME and STAY SAFE “, he said.

He noted that corporations and government offices partially opened their operations and services so as to facilitate the activities of other sectors; some manufacturing, construction and allied sectors also resumed.

“All these sectors ensured that adequate infection mitigation measures were put in place.”

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