Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, has warned Nigerians to beware of the dangers of coronavirus pandemic, stressing that he has lost a close member of his staff, relatives and friends to the deadly COVID-19.
He therefore implored all Nigerians to abide by the approved guidelines and protocols, adding that there is hope to beat the pandemic “if we take individual and collective responsibility.”
The President said this in his speech, to mark the nation’s new Democracy Day, which he declared in 2018, in place of May 29, the anniversary of the inauguration of the Fourth Republic, which since 2000 had been marked as Nigeria’s Democracy Day.
Buhari noted that the pandemic has no doubt affected the global economy and all known socio-economic systems and brought grief and pain to families that have lost their loved ones.
He said as part of the strategy to reducing the effect of COVID-19 on the youths, his administration is targeting to employ 774, 000 Nigerians, with each of the 774 local government areas in the country allotted 1,000 slots to engage youths in Special Public Works programme aimed at cushioning the effects of economic downturn.
According to him, “The impact of the pandemic has disrupted our economic system and to ensure its functioning while still addressing the spread, the Federal Government put in place a number of various non-pharmaceutical measures to slow down the spread of the virus, in addition to a progressive re-opening of the economy.
“As part of the strategy to create jobs in reducing the effect of COVID-19 on our youths, I directed the employment of 774, 000 Nigerians. These youths will be engaged in Special Public Works programme aimed at cushioning the effects of economic downturn. Each of the 774 local government areas in the country will be allotted 1,000 slots. I am pleased to report that this programme has commenced.
“I receive regular briefing from the PTF on COVID-19. I note that the National Response relies on Science, Data and Experience in taking decisions. This informed my approval for the ease of lock down phase to ensure a balance between lives and livelihoods.
“I am confident that the steps being taken by the PTF would result in flattening the COVID-19 curve. I, therefore, implore all Nigerians to abide by the approved guidelines and protocols. There is hope for us all if we take individual and collective responsibility.
“Government is determined to turn this COVID-19 challenge into a motivation to action by building a nation-wide public health care system that will help us overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for any future outbreak.
Already, we have begun to look inward and I charge our inventors, researchers and scientists to come up with solutions to cure COVID-19.”
The President had said the change of Democracy Day was in honour of the memory of Chief MKO Abiola, who won the June 12, 1993 presidential election that was annulled by the Ibrahim Babangida-led military regime.
Abiola eventually died in detention on July 8, 1998, while being held for declaring himself president over the annulled poll.
Meanwhile, the President has declared that his administration has recorded “notable achievements” in the in the course of implementing his nine priority objectives.
He acknowledged the milestones recorded on the economic front with GDP growing from 1.91% in 2018 to 2.27% in 2019. “We have witnessed eleven quarters of consecutive GDP growth since exiting recession. The GDP grew from 1.91% in 2018 to 2.27% in 2019 but declined to 1.87% in the first quarter of 2020 as a result of the decline in global economic activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Buhari saluted founding fathers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and those who have toiled to sustain it, while also praising the resilience of Nigerians, health and essential workers in the fight against COVID-19
He also appreciated the media for their doggedness in the struggle for the attainment of democracy and for being effective watchdog of the society.
He said his administration’s commitment to people living with disabilities remains unwavering, even as he promised to fight gender based violence to a standstill. He said Nigeria has survived many crises before and came out stronger, assuring that the country will overcome COVID-19 crisis and emerge stronger.