Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja, Fred Ezeh, Ndubuisi Orji,
The Presidency has confirmed that the presidential villa in Abuja was on a partial lockdown.
Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, who made the revelation when he spoke State House correspondents in Abuja, yesterday, insisted that Federal Executive Council (FEC) meetings were suspended indefinitely because more than 50 converge on the council chamber of the presidential villa on a weekly basis as against the restriction on large gatherings amid the coronvairus outbreak.
“The council was suspended because of the size. You have over 50 people seated in the council chambers whenever the meeting holds and that is not advisable at a time like this,” he said.
“But if there would be a very important decision to be taken, you can always summon the relevant people, three, four or five and hold a small meeting and arrive at a decision. It does not mean that one man is going to be taking all the decisions. Of course yes there are executive decisions but the ones that must pass through consultations of which must have a buy in of the federal executive council can always be discussed at a smaller meeting.
Addison spoke as President Muhammadu Buhari resumed work as normal.
A Presidency source confirmed that he was in his office working but no government functionary came for the usual briefing.
The source who did not say the exact time the president resumed at work, however, said as at 2.30pm when the inquiry was made, he was in the office.
In adherence with the directive by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, FEC meeting did not hold.
The Taskforce had on Monday announced the suspension of the council meeting until further notice.
On the situation of things at the villa, the presidential aide said: “Well, things are a bit on a low key, it doesn’t mean that the State House is shut down, it’s just that things are a bit on the low key just like the rest of the country. The rest of the country is also on a lowkey, there is partial lockdown in most parts of the country. So, what is happening at the State House can also be called a partial lockdown but not a complete lockdown.”
Currently, Nigeria has 46 cases of COVID-19 including one death.
The Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, and Bauchi State Governor. Bala Mohammed, are among Nigeria’s 46 confirmed cases.
The COVID-19 has killed over 15,000 people globally, the majority of them in Europe and China.
He assured that all those who tested positive to the deadly Coronavirus (COVID-19) would receive adequate medical attention, saying Coronavirus was not a death sentence.
He cited the recovery of the index case to buttress his point, emphasised that anybody that tested positive should not panic as the virus was curable.
“We also will pray along with the persons, give them our goodwill and best wishes and they will surely come out of it. Even the index case in Nigeria recovered and has been discharged.
“God that has shown us mercy thus far and will continue to show that mercy. Anybody that test positive is not a death sentence, they will be attended to, they will be tested and they will be fine,” he said.
On other measures adopted by the presidency to curtail the spread of COVID-19, Adesina said:“Of course, you know when you come into the State House you have about three, four, five spots in which your temperature is tested and you have to sanitise your hand.
“And if you come in and your temperature is way above a certain figure, then you will be advised to go for test and take care of yourself.
“So, I think so far so good. Before you will go into the general area you will meet about three areas of test and before you get into the President’s area you will meet like another two.
“I believe that a lot has been done to ensure that those who operate in the presidency are take care of.”
He cautioned Nigerians against panic, saying, “panic will not be the right thing to do because when you panic you are bound to make mistakes. When you panic you get agitated and the situation does not call for that, rather it calls for cooperation with government. When they give instructions lets abide with those instructions. And a number of things have been put in place to ensure that the well being of Nigerians is taken care of.”
•Lawan, Gbajabiamila meet ministers on planned 2020 budget review
The Leadership of the National Assembly,yesterday, met with some ministers and heads of Federal Government agencies to brainstorm on the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the Nigerian economy.
Ezrel Tabiowo, spokesperson to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawal, in a statement, said the meeting focused on plans to review the 2020 budget and the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) passed in 2019.
Lawan, who presided over the meeting, in his opening remarks, said that an immediate review of 2020 budget and MTEF was imperative given the impact of COVID -19 on global economy.
“If we have to review the budget itself, we have to consider the MTEF/FSP, even in sickness, we need government to provide services. The impact of COVID-19 is well known to all of us in terms of health and the economy, we will be talking of revenues that we estimated to fund the budget 2020.
“Because the oil price has gone so low due to the impact of COVID-19, the Minister of State should be able to tell us where we will be in the next six months or so. We should have concepts that can deliver fast and are sustainable. Anything that we do that cannot provide succour and relief to our people will lead to catastrophe,” the senate president said.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila said the meeting was timely.
Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, explained that prior to COVID-19 and oil price decline, the Nigerian economy was already fragile and vulnerable.
According to her, due to the global economic downturn precipitated by impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, international oil prices plunged as low as $22 per barrel on the international market.
•CBN releases guidelines for operations of N100bn for healthcare
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has released guidelines for the operations of N100 billion credit support for the healthcare sector following the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.
In a circular signed by Mr. Kevin Amugo, Director Financial Policy Regulation Department,yesterday, the apex bank indicated that indigenous pharmaceutical companies and healthcare practitioners that intends to expand or build their capacities would benefit from the scheme.
The CBN had announced the N100 billion intervention for the healthcare industry to strengthen the sector’s capacity to meet potential increase in demand for healthcare and services.
In the guideline, the apex bank noted that the scheme would provide credit to indigenous pharmaceutical companies and other healthcare value chain players intending to build or expand their businesses.
The CBN said the scheme was also expected to increase private and public investment in the healthcare sector, facilitates improvement in healthcare delivery and reduce medical tourism to enhance foreign exchange conservation.
•Atiku donates N50m to relief fund
Former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has called on the Federal Government to take drastic measures to contain the spread of coronavirus, including a-stay-at-home order, devise modalities to distribute N10,000 as a supplement for foodstuff to each household, among its other palliative measures, with no one left behind.
Atiku, in a message posted on his Twitter page, yesterday, in which he pledged N50 million, reminded the government that the larger percentage of Nigerians survive through subsistence living and do not have the financial capacity to withstand long periods of self-isolation and a total lockdown of the country.
“As the coronavirus pandemic ravages the world, I applaud the various state governments who have proactively taken measures, such as issuing stay at home orders, and shutting down non-essential markets and other places of mass gatherings, while also giving guidelines for social distancing. However, we must accept the fact that much of the Nigerian public have a subsistence existence. A large percentage of our people do not have the financial capacity to withstand long periods of self-isolation and even lockdown.
“It is, therefore, incumbent on the federal and state governments to provide palliatives to the Nigerian people to enable them to survive, even as they abide by these necessary measures put in place for their safety. At an approximate 30 million households or thereabouts, the government should devise modalities to distribute N10,000 as a supplement for foodstuff to each household, among other palliative measures, with no one left behind.
“It isa time for the National Assembly to reconvene in an emergency session, perhaps by teleconference, in line with the demands of social distancing, to legislate on a Stimulus Package Act that will cater for all Nigerian citizens,” Atiku said.
He also called on Mobile Telephony Companies in Nigeria to urgently develop mobile money platforms so that the government can reach the unbanked with financial assistance.
“In addition to that, they should offer each of the 100 million mobile phone lines in Nigeria free credit of at least 1, 500 per mobile line, so that Nigerians who show symptoms, or those who just want information, can call the nearest available health facility, or even an ambulance service, as the case may be,” he said.
He commended individuals and corporate organisations who have, in one way or the other, provided some form of relief for Nigerians saying “this is what makes Nigeria great, when we help each other at such crisis times as this, irrespective of any differences.”
“I further call on more corporations and individuals with capacity, to assist the public in these trying times. To this end, Priam Group pledges N50 million on my behalf as my humble contribution to a relief fund that will form part of the stimulus package,” he said.
•PDP tackle Presidency for allegedly banning AIT from Aso Rock
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday, berated the Presidency for allegedly barring some media houses from covering activities at the presidential villa, Aso Rock.The party in a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the Presidency’s action was undemocratic and done in bad faith. The opposition party noted that the decision to exclude some media houses from covering activities at the Presidential Villa was against the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act as well as the rule of law. This is therefore not the time for unnecessary pettiness, victimisation and barring of media houses, a development which has sparked off suspicion in the public space as being designed to conceal certain facts from the public. It is indeed instructive for the Buhari Presidency to note that our nation is in dire need of hope and direction contained in timely information, especially from the government.”